Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sermon on the Mount, part 8

Praying to the Father, for enemies, forgiving debtors

Jesus proceeds with the same honour concept, this time applied to our requests to the Father. The model prayer shows the teaching of how we are to pray to God for our social problems and personal needs.
 ‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Mat 6:9-15)
The address to the Father in heaven shows that we are to pray to God the Father in heaven, our sole lawgiver and judge (James 4:12), rather than praying to men on earth in the form of lawsuits, for them to give us evil laws to benefit ourselves and to judge our neighbours or enemies.
This can be seen from the parable of the persistent widow where the earthly judge is presented as unjust and the message is that our prayers for justice should be directed instead to God the Father:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”
‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:1-8)
The concept of God ruling from heaven, without deputies on earth ruling with violence is clearly taught in the Old Testament, however the people rejected God as their king and asked for a human king (1 Sam 8). Jesus is calling his people back to God’s rule from heaven: ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.
The hallowing of God’s name is not by swearing oaths in his name and keeping them, but by letting our yes be yes and our no be no, while we invoke not violence to back our words and promises.
The kingdom concept is the main theme of the Gospel of God and involves Jesus the King, his subjects following his leadership and example, and his rule through his laws and commandments. This concept and teaching shows that the laws Jesus gave about responding to wrongdoing are binding and are for general application to the world through the ministry of meek peace-making and reconciliation (Col 1:15-21).
In asking God to forgive our debts, we are acknowledging that we have breached his laws by doing wrongs for which the wrongs of others are no justification. Our sinful natures have sought our own interests to the extent of directly and indirectly using wrongdoing to get our way and solve our problems. This puts us in need of God’s forgiveness. But here’s the catch: God’s forgiveness to us is conditional on us giving up directly and indirectly doing wrongs to others to collect the debts they owe us.
Jesus asks us to pray to God the Father for relief from temptation. The word translated temptation can also be translated trial. One of the types of trial that we pray to avoid is trial in court. If we forgive others, we avoid taking them to court trials, and if we seek conciliation with those who have something against us we also avoid court trials.

The deliverance from evil one includes all kinds of evil, not only private violence but court-sanctioned violence also.  We are to pray to God the Father that we be led away from temptations to evil such as civil disputes with others that can lead us to court.

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