For the last several weeks I've been teaching on the Lord's Prayer. This week, I've been preparing to unpack the petition, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us." In my preparation, I read several books along with Scripture and commentaries. I was greatly moved by N.T. Wright's approach to this particular section in the prayer. From his little book, The Lord and His Prayer:
These days, people of all sorts run to keep fit. Even presidents and politicians have been known to don jogging suits, and even to be photographed taking exercise. But in Jesus’ world, the more senior you were in a community, the less likely you were even to walk fast. It shows a lack of dignity, of gravitas.
So when Jesus told a story about a man running, this was designed to have the same effect on his audience as we would experience if, say, the [President of the United States] were to show up for [his inauguration] wearing a [bathing suit]. It’s a total loss of dignity.
And when we discover why this man is running, the effect is even more shocking. This man is running to greet someone: someone who has put a curse on him, who has brought disgrace on the whole family. We call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), but it might be called the Parable of the Running Father.
When we pray, “Forgive us our sins…” the heavenly Father, in all his glory, runs to us and embraces us in his arms of forgiveness.