You might recognize the first two sentences of our passage as being from the Lord's Prayer. I think we do a disservice to ourselves when we "compartmentalize" the prayer into just so many verses and exclude the immediate two which follow. They are there to give further explanation to a very important concept Jesus wants us to understand - especially when we recognize Jesus was ALL about relationships - and he wanted us to learn to relate well with God and others. The Lord's Prayer is a reminder of how we need to take time to speak with God on a regular basis - not just to "cover our bases", but to really get more acquainted with him and to allow him to reveal more of himself to us. As Jesus concludes the instructions on "how to pray" or "talk to God", he reminds us of the importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a two-way street, so to speak. We forgive others, God forgives us. We get God's forgiveness, we pass it on to others. In terms of what Jesus has been teaching, he is reminding us of the importance of not being judgmental of others when they don't live up to what we expected because we have the same propensity to "not live up to" what is expected of us!
Forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who did wrong to us. Don’t let us be tempted, but save us from the Evil One. Yes, if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, then your Father in heaven will also forgive your wrongs. But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father in heaven will not forgive the wrongs you do. (Matthew 6:12-15 ERV)
We occasionally hear about those bad traffic accidents which block traffic for miles and miles, making all movement an impossibility. Unforgiveness is just like the worst of traffic jams. It keeps us from moving forward in relationship and it means we are going to just "sit and stew" for a while. Whenever my sister runs into one of these on the interstate between our house and hers, she just pulls off and gets a coffee somewhere along the way - but that only works if her "position" in the traffic jam actually puts her close enough to an exit where she can take "refuge" until the mess clears up. Most of the time, she is somewhere in between and cannot budge from the stalled traffic. She didn't cause the accident, nor did she instigate the delay or mess which must be cleared up, but she is "suffering" because of it. When we hold onto unforgiveness against another, many will suffer because of the "jam" it causes in the relationship, not just us and the other person.
The traffic is stalled because something is impeding the cars from making progress forward. They could detour, but that still leaves the mess right where it lies, blocking the free-flow of traffic. Until the mess is cleared, the passage beyond the mess may be possible through avoidance, but the detour never quite makes the trip through life the same! Every detour I have taken means I get into unfamiliar territory, hung up by stops and starts I just didn't want to make in the first place. That is how it is when we avoid the relationship conflicts which really need to be cleared away, not detoured around. We go through all kinds of stops and starts - making our progress slower than desirable - and we probably don't feel very comfortable with the path we are taking because it is unfamiliar to us. The more we detour the issues in life, the more comfortable we may become "skirting the issue", but it isn't quite the same!
My father died in his late sixties, succumbing to heart disease which no doctor had been able to detect on any exam. You see, my father was evidently born with a deficient right coronary artery and his body "compensated" for the lack of this free-flowing major artery to the heart by creating a whole lot of collateral circulation. It was the "detoured circulation" which probably kept him alive all those years, but as he aged and small plaques began to form on the smaller circulatory pathways, the blockages actually prevented the blood flow, leading to his death. Relationships can look all right from the outside, but be quite deficient just beneath the surface! We might develop all manner of "coping mechanisms" similar to the collateral circulation dad's body created, but when push comes to shove, the "collateral" will not sustain life within that relationship!
Instead of creating "work arounds" to our relationship issues, Jesus says we need to tackle them head-on. Confess what is bothering us, getting it out into the open, and then dealing with it until the stuff is actually cleared away! This is the benefit of forgiveness - it removes the debris and makes the "free-flow" of relationship possible again. So, keep those paths clear, my friends! You aren't just serving to make it easier for yourself - there are a whole lot of other people impacted by our relationship "mishaps"! Just sayin!