“Forgive us our trespasses” we say in prayer. Why not “forgive me my trespasses”? Why am I asking forgiveness for all those other people?
- Like Congress.
- Or convicted felons
- Or embezzlers
- Or child abusers
Oh my goodness. I must ask God to forgive us all, even those I don’t feel “deserve” forgiveness. Lump us all in there together. Because otherwise I am guilty of the Publican’s crime. Asking for forgiveness while standing in judgment of my brother.
Or Jonah’s sin. ‘Show those Ninevites no mercy, Lord. Look at how they’re behaving! We, we are the ones who deserve your attention and favor.’
Such words and ways reveal so much about the shallowness of our own character and how little we understand the ways of God.
Yes. I was having a Jonah moment this morning. Thinking about how I don’t want to live in a world where people who act like that and live like that can be forgiven.
Then I prayed, “Forgive us our trespasses, Lord. As we forgive those who trespass against us,” as Jesus taught us. And I saw the faultiness of my reasoning and shallowness of heart.
What kind of world would it be if God just forgave those who asked? What a weight of responsibility for those who are asking, for all of us? If we can have any hope at all, it is there.
I love bread. Especially, the apple scrapple from the Great Harvest Bakery. The chewy goodness of baked white bread (whole wheat doesn’t do it for me) mixed with apple and cinnamon. I eat it in great chunks on the way home from the store. Handfuls ripped right off the loaf, crumbs falling all over the front seat of my new car. I choose hunks preferentially by their endowment with cinnamon and brown sugar topping. When THAT drops on the floor it is tragic!
But I’m not a bread snob. Most any loaf will do. It was probably me they had in mind when they came out with the low carb diets. Take out the carbs and all my eating pleasure vanishes, too. Instant weight loss!
So it won’t surprise you that when I say the Lord’s prayer – and do the Lord’s prayer stretch – I extend my hands with palms cupped and imagine my daily bread in them. “Give us this day our daily bread.” My hands are empty. But if there were bread placed there, as I imagine, how heavy is it? How heavy should it be? How heavy would I like it to be?
I want lots. Plenty for my carb-loaded lifestyle. Gimme. Gimme. A whole loaf of apple scrapple, please. Fill me up, Lord!
But God, knowing what my day holds, gives me what I need for the day. Only so much and no more. And in that is an irony: the more He gives me, the more of Him I am gonna need to get through the day. I should be asking for less. Crumbs, Lord. Please give me crumbs!
Isn’t it funny? We’re carrying around basket fulls of bread and calling ourselves lucky. Even blessed. When what God is saying in His portion is, “you’re gonna need a lot of me, today.” Go ahead, you’re strong. You’ll need THIS!
What if I held out my hands and God put in just a bit? And, instead of complaining at my meager rations, I said, “Thank you, Lord, for giving me just what I need. Thank you for bearing the weight of this day.”
Perhaps I am weak and can only carry a small bit. Or, maybe, as I learn to trust Him to prepare me for what’s ahead, I better rely on my God-inspired experiences and God-given resources and God-endowed creativity, and trust that it will be nearly sufficient for today. His contribution is simply topping, brown sugar and cinnamon on the me-loaf He has brought to this day.
As I grow older and wiser in Him, will my daily portion diminish? Will my demand on His resources be less and less? Will I be satisfied with just a small piece, broken from the loaf and placed in my hands? Communion-sized.
His body, broken for me. This, I should not enjoy by the handful. But I do. I don’t even bother to collect the crumbs.
Do we forgive our debtors or those who trespass against us?
I have wondered this from a young age, probably stemming from the moment of mortification when I said “trespasses” and EVERYONE else in the sanctuary said “debts.” Who knew that people memorized a 2000 year old prayer differently? I mean, there are quote marks. Jesus only said it one way. How can it be two?
Never really considered the rightness or wrongness, until I read it from Matthew (New International Version) this morning.
“9 “This, then, is how you should pray:12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
Now that I’m a writer, I guess I read things a bit differently, but two things got my attention:
1. I’m asking God to forgive my debts as I have forgiven (present perfect tense) my debtors. “God, please forgive those things I owe you, as I have already forgiven them to others.” Isn’t it cool this is the “present perfect” tense? My forgiveness of the other allows the perfect present, God’s forgiveness.
2. Debts and trespasses are definitely not the same thing. Theologians may try to justify the “real meaning” of these words and Matthew’s intention when he wrote them, but if the Word of Scripture is living for me, it’s what they mean in my life when I read them that counts.
And debts and trespasses are different. Debts are something borrowed and meant to be paid back – a loan, a kindness, a transaction. Trespasses are lines knowingly crossed, transgressions against, boundaries violated, trounced or trampled. Debts feel forgivable. Transgressions feel permanent.
No wonder I have a hard time feeling like God would ever forgive me. How can I ever forgive those who have willingly trespassed against me? I guess I could try saying “debtors,” but I expect there’s a reason the ancient text has been passed down to me in the words I pray…
…making me especially grateful Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” ~ Luke 23:34
He must have known there would be people who, in their pursuit of knowing, would agonize over His words. Even in His agony, Christ left no doubt, “Forgive them.”