It occasionally dawns upon me as to how radical Christ’s message was to the Jewish society of his day, and consequently how radical were the tenets of Christianity to the then world. Often, so much of what I might consider as common, mundane, matter-of-fact, inoffensive Christian belief, method, or stance as thought of today, takes on much greater significance when considered in its historical setting; such is something a seemingly common today as the Lord’s Prayer.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (A portion of the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6: 9-12)
This seems innocuous enough when considered in its modern context but to get the full import of this passage one has to return to its historical roots found in such following Levitical passages:
If any of you sin unintentionally by breaking any of the Lord’s commands, you are guilty and must pay the penalty.
…. The priest shall offer the sacrifice for the sin which you committed unintentionally, and you will be forgiven.
It is a repayment offering for the sin you committed against the Lord. (Leviticus 5:17-19)
The point is, the Mosaic Law required an actual, physical trespass offering to be made for such offenses; Jesus was saying that we could and should simply ask forgiveness for our offenses—a radical departure from the ritualism of the Mosaic Law.
But Jesus did add one more element to the equation: ‘forgive us as we forgive’. Basically, the ante was being upped; the spiritual standard was being taken up a notch. We are only forgiven as we forgive. Now it wasn’t to be just a question of being covered in offense through a Mosaic sin offering, or even in a NT sense, by asking the Lord’s forgiveness; but now we had the added bar and spiritual responsibility of living in an attitude, an atmosphere, a relationship of proactive forgiving.