The Song of the Mountains 38
The hardest prayer.
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” (Matt. 6:12).
This petition of the Lord’s Prayer addresses our spiritual need: forgiveness. The need for it, and the need to give it. If you are inclined to say the Lord’s Prayer as part of your prayer life, perhaps you have said these words and not considered just how difficult they are.
As we consider this petition, we are faced with two assumptions: 1) the need for our own forgiveness, and 2) the recognition that others have been a source of hurt in our own lives. There is an old expression validated by this petition for forgiveness: “Hurt people, hurt people.”
We note that this petition is both a plea and a declaration. First, we are pleading for the Lord’s forgiveness; and second, we are claiming that we have forgiven others as the Lord has forgiven us. CS Lewis spoke to the heart, and difficulty of forgiveness, when he wrote, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Forgive the inexcusable? Yes, as that is exactly what, if you have gone to the Father for forgiveness through His Son, that you have experienced. Release from the punishment for the inexcusable.
The Lord’s Prayer was given to disciples of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus to pray, and to live. There are many in the Body of Messiah today who believe that once you are “saved” that you are no longer able to sin, to hurt, be hurt, or do anything short of perfection. If only. The inclusion of this petition for forgiveness of ourselves, and our forgiveness of others, in this disciples prayer is evidence that we will still sin, thereby falling short of the glory of God in ourselves (Ro. 3:23-24), thus relying continually on His grace – let it, however, not be wantonly, but rather accidently, unintentionally.
The apostle John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Yet, he gives us great hope for those times when we do sin, he writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:8-9).
It’s not easy.
As Messiah taught us to pray these simple words, “forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive those who have trespassed against us,” the prayer itself seems easy. Prayer, at least in my humble opinion, is never easy; and Scripture does not indicate prayer to be an easy endeavor. We are, after all, entering into the presence of the Lord. Yes, He is our Father in heaven, and we enter into His presence by Messiah (Heb. 10:19), but unlike the omniscient Lord, I know me, and my unworthiness to speak to Him. Dear reader, we know the depths of our unworthiness, but much greater are the depths of His grace and forgiveness. So great a salvation. So great a promise!
Yeshua is realistic as He teaches us to pray; as He said, “Forgive us our debts.” He knows that we come to our Father with the burden and nagging pain of our guilt. As a daily prayer, Yeshua is teaching us to seek daily forgiveness. He is teaching us to keep a short account with the Lord, to not allow the interest to grow on this account. Seek forgiveness. Admit the debts we know we have. Stop attempting to hide sin from the Lord. Admit them, expose them, mention them by name in His presence, and ask to be forgiven.
So we all sin. Again, Paul nailed it, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Still, he also encourages us to understand that there is forgiveness and restoration when we sin, he continues, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”
All of us have sinned against God, and we have all intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else; but what a relief to learn of forgiveness. We can share in this relief for others by extending forgiveness when wronged – experiencing the power of grace from a different perspective. Why? The pain of unforgiveness is too great for us to bear.
We being with a plea, “forgive us Lord,” and we continue with a declaration – that we have and will forgive those who “trespass against us.”
As it is most commonly recited, privately and publicly, the word “trespasses” is spoken. The underlying text is actually “debts,” but the Greek words translated “debts” and “trespasses” are used interchangeably, as we find in Luke 11:4. The debts that we owe to the Lord originate with our fallen condition; just as we owe people a debt when we wrong them or damage them in some way. We are declaring, when we pray, “forgive us…as we have forgiven,” that we have let those who have wronged us off the hook as to a moral debt that they owe us.
There is always questions regarding forgiveness in criminal matters: violence, theft, or car accidents. While we are called by God to forgive, in cases such as these, there are civil laws, not specifically ethical laws, which must be enforced by our society.
If someone does violence or steals, our society has laws which, in theory, are meant to right the wrong, and reform such behavior. Or in the case of a car accident, laws established to make both the car owner and the title holder whole from damage. These cases line up with what is revealed in the Law of Moses – forgiveness is extended, but reparations and civil chastisement must be executed.
Let it drop.
What Yeshua is telling us is, to let go of the anger, bitterness and resentment that will only wear you out – extend forgiveness and be free – and also grant others freedom from personal guilt, when they acknowledge their wrong.
The general category.
When we extend forgiveness, we are imitating the grace and love that the Lord has extended to us. As He has forgiven us, even as we are aware of just how unworthy we are, so we should also forgive others. This act of forgiveness falls under the general category of how He has loved us, and how we are called to love others as a witness to the love we have so graciously received.
Forgiveness, as difficult as it is, for the moral trespass, social embarrassment, ridicule or oversight from others frees us to live, and ultimately restores our lives and hearts.
Difficult, but not impossible; as nothing is impossible for those with the Father.
Shalom. Be well.