“Father, Forgive Us”

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt 6:12)

     INTRO.: A song which asks God to forgive us our debts is "Father, Forgive Us." The text was written and the tune (Smart) was composed both by Gene Cleveland Finley, who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, near Gilt Edge, TN, to Hiram Cleveland and Edna Finley. His father was a singing teacher and song-writer, and his mother was an alto singer. Gene has been interested in music all of his life, attending singing schools taught by his father, C. B. Holloway, G. E. Baggett, J. E. Roane, R. H. McNew, and others. In 1951, he married Wilma Smart of Clinton, AR, and they had two children, a son and a daughter. In addition to his work of teaching music in public schools at Star City, AR, he has taught some singing schools and produced several songs. His closing song "Lord, Dismiss Us in Thy Care," harmonized by George Edward Baggett, has been well received.

     "Lord, Dismiss Us in Thy Care" and Finley’s "Oh, What Love!", also harmonized by Baggett, were both published in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard. In 1980, Finley edited a book, Our Garden in Song, which gives biographies of song writers associated with Churches of Christ. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Father, Forgive Us," which was copyrighted in 1973, was first published in the 1978 Hymns of Worship edited by Reuel Lemmons for the Firm Foundation Co. Today it may also be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1999 Into Our Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song points out the importance of asking God to forgive us whenever we sin.

I. Stanza 1 says that we need forgiveness when we are weak and led astray
"Father, forgive us when in our weakness We let the tempter lead us astray.
We bow our hearts in shame and in meekness; Father, have mercy, save us, we pray."
 A. All of us have areas in which we are weak and thus have times of weakness now and then: 2 Cor. 12:10, Heb. 11:34
 B. At such times we are in special danger of letting the tempter lead us astray, as he did Eve: 2 Cor. 11:3
 C. When this happens, we need to bow our hearts in the shame of repentance and ask God to have mercy upon us that the sin of our hearts might be forgiven: Acts 8:22

II. Stanza 2 says that we need forgiveness when we grow weary and complain
"Father, forgive us when we grow weary,
And we find time to grieve and complain.
Give us the power to see things more clearly;
Father of lights, make everything plain."
 A. There are times when we grow wearied and faint: Heb. 12:3
 B. In such times, there is likely the temptation to grieve and complain: Phil. 2:14
 C. When this happens, we need to pray for forgiveness and ask for God’s help to see things more clearly, setting our affections on things above rather than things of the earth: Col. 3:1-2

III. Stanza 3 says that we need forgiveness when we are blind and hurt others
"Father, forgive us when in our blindness
We hurt our loved ones with things we say.
Give us the patience, give us the kindness,
Give us the love we need for today."
 A. As much as we seek to grow in grace and knowledge, each of us may sometimes be characterized by spiritual blindness: 2 Pet. 1:9
 B. It is in such blindness that we may hurt others with things that we say: Eph. 4:29-32
 C. When this happens, we need to pray for forgiveness and also ask for more patience, kindness, and love knowing that it is by our words that we shall be justified or condemned: Matt. 12:37

IV. Stanza 4 says that we need forgiveness when we allow indecent thoughts to stay in our minds
"Father, forgive us when thoughts indecent
Enter our minds and we let them stay.
Cleanse us and make us fit for Thy Spirit;
In Jesus’ name we earnestly pray."
 A. Even though we strive to guard our minds or hearts, it is still possible for thoughts indecent to enter, and we are warned not to be
conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds: Rom. 12:1-2
 B. While we may not be able to eliminate such thoughts from occasionally entering our minds, it is even worse if we allow them to stay because God soundly condemns all lewd or lustful thinking in our hearts: Matt. 5:28
 C. When this happens, we need to pray, as the Psalmist did, that God would cleanse us: Ps. 19:12

     CONCL.: There are many invitation songs which encourage the lost to respond by expressing the sinner’s desire to obey the gospel and be cleansed by the grace of God through the blood of Christ. However, there are not as many songs which encourage the child of God who has sinned to seek God’s forgiveness ("Pass Me Not," based on Ps. 51, is one that comes to mind). Therefore, this song is a good one to fill this need of reminding all of us that whenever we sin, we need to turn to our God and say, "Father, Forgive Us."
     Note:  Words reproduced here with permission from the author.


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