Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Our Trespassers

Matthew 6:9-13“Pray along these lines: ‘Our Father in heaven, we honor your holy name. 10 We ask that your kingdom will come now. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. 11 Give us our food again today, as usual, 12 and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. 13 Don’t bring us into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One. Amen. (The Living Bible)

We have been working with the Lord’s Prayer – take a look at the March 1st Pickles cartoon — — some of the reasons to pray! Today we will look at the petition:  “Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive our Trespassers” 

We use the Lord’s Prayer all the time — it is a prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples – has three statements about God and three statements about our relationship and what the kingdom should look like.

Look at page 894 in the UM Hymnal – three versions of the Lord’s Prayer

And forgive our trespasses as we have forgiven our trespassers.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

12 and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

Ever wonder why three different words? For clarity we print the Lord’s Prayer in the bulletin and have it on PowerPoint.

Let’s look deeper: Whenever a group says the Lord’s Prayer, we sense some hesitation. “Forgive us. . .” and then the pause. Which will it be debtors or trespasses? Methodists say “trespasses”, Presbyterians say “debtors” while our Catholic neighbors go the trespasses route. Others say “sins.” – sins are our separation from God.

Apparently in the original Greek, the word is translated as debts. This doesn’t necessarily mean money but can also mean anyone who owes you because they have wronged you. The word trespasses come into play as another meaning of the same Greek word. As an example, consider the English word spring—this word could mean the season, a flow of water, a metal device or even a spring in our walk. Same word different meanings. As soon as we start to look at who translated what when, we see a volley back and forth between debtors and trespasses.

1395 Wycliff made the first English translation of the Bible. He used debtors.

1526 The Tyndale translation followed, and he used trespasses.

1549 Book of Common Prayer (Anglican) still used trespasses.

1611 And with the King James Bible we are back to debtors.

Which word is better? On the surface, they mean slightly different things. Trespasses means having crossed a line that may or not be clearly marked. Debtors implies that someone owes you and hasn’t settled the debt. Sins—our separation from God.

No matter. Jesus told us to forgive them. And that is the key word, Forgive. That’s what makes the surrounding part of the prayer so important: “Forgive us our trespasses, our debts, our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Yes. It means that we are forgiven our trespasses, intentional and accidental. It also means that we forgive our trespassers — even those who don’t know they’ve trespassed, who didn’t see the line, who don’t realize they’ve stepped on metaphorical private land. You know, the ones who step on our hearts.

Not that different after all. And yet these word games can become all important in separating one set of believers from another. Why do we let that happen? Fortunately, God has already promised to forgive us our trespasses even as he commanded us to forgive our debtors. And to forgive those who have sinned against us.

I think that’s why Jesus encourages us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In this prayer, Jesus teaches us that we need forgiveness so we must ask for it. So why do we need forgiveness?

The primary act of faith is forgiving. Robert Hoyer writes, “(Forgiveness) is the characteristic act of God, (in) Jesus Christ. If we follow him in faith, it is the first thing we do in our following. It is the one thing we do in faith which we would not do if we had no faith. Forgiving is what we do if we want to put meaning and purpose back into our lives.”

Second, Forgiving impacts our prayer life. Prayer is based on our relationship with God. If there is unforgiven or unrepentant sin in our life, it distances us from God, and becomes an obstacle between us and God. 
And that impacts our prayer life. Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities (that is your sins) have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”Our sin harms our prayer life because it harms our relationship with God. God is more responsive to those who confess their sin and seek God’s forgiveness. James 5:16b “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”Why? Because they are right with God. To be righteous has nothing to do with all the good things you do. In Scripture righteousness is a status which God gives to those who have humbled themselves, confessed and repented of their sin and received God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ and are living for Him.

Third, we need forgiveness for our health. Forgiveness can lead to less stress and hostility, Lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain, lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse.

Fourth, we need forgiveness for our mind. When we are consumed by the need and desire for revenge, it’s difficult to think of other things. We come to the place that not only do we have a one-track mind, but the train’s been derailed as well.

So, what is Jesus trying to teach us? First, we need to ask for forgiveness. Jesus was a master storyteller and his stories centered on the kingdom of God. He told his stories in parables which are meant to relate an essential spiritual truth. So, when we come to a parable, we need to ask what’s the point of the story and why did Jesus tell it in this place? Jesus tells this story related to us in Luke 18: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Here’s my translation. Two men went up to worship, one stood up and prayed a beautifully written, theologically sound and poetically perfect prayer. And when he finished his prayer, he went back and sat down in his chair and thought to himself, “Wow! I knocked the ball right out of the park with that prayer.” Meanwhile an unchurched man came in late and sat in the back row and he knew that his life was completely falling apart. He didn’t know when to stand or when to sit in the service or what to say. Those who were sitting with him could still smell the beer on him and the stink of an unwashed body. But in his tears and confusion, he mutters the only words which come to his mind, “God, if you’re out there, please forgive me and help me.” Of the two, only the latter went home with a right relationship with God.

So why did Jesus tell this story? To let us know that God forgives the sins of anyone who confesses their sin and asks for forgiveness. People enter churches for worship every Sunday all across this land, but some leave forgiven and some leave just the same as when they arrived. The difference is what’s going on inside our hearts. Nobody sees but God and God forgives the sins of those who ask.

Second, we need to offer forgiveness. Do you remember this?Several years ago, in Nicklemines, PA a deranged and guilt-ridden milkman walked into a little wooden Amish school house. He carried with him 2 shotguns, some rifles, a stun gun and a hunting knife and 600 rounds of ammunition. He let the teacher and the male students go free and then bound 10 young girls in hand and foot. The oldest of the girls said, please, take me and let the others go. Her 11-year-old sister, Barbie stepped forward and said, “Take me too.” When the Police arrived, they burst down the doors and the milkman fired his automatic weapons, killing five including the first girl who stepped forward. Five were seriously wounded including Barbie. After this horrific event, Amish men and women were seen in their horse and buggies riding up to the house of the milkman’s widow and his three daughters. They attended the funeral and invited the three daughters to attend the funeral of their daughter. When monies started to pour in to cover the medical expenses of the injured, the Amish set up a trust fund for the wife and children of the murderer. Why? Because we pray, Father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Third, our forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others. The Bible teaches us that we have been spared and forgiven a great debt by God. Because we have been forgiven, our challenge is to forgive others in kind. Jesus teaches another parable. Here are the verses from the Message: At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. “The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.” The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.” The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’ “The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt.” And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy. The meaning of the first parable is that God forgives those who ask for forgiveness and the meaning of this parable is that God forgives the sins of those who forgive others.

We must draw upon God’s forgiveness of us to forgive others. Forgiveness is never easy, and we never want to whitewash what Jesus is asking of us in this prayer. Certainly, there are situations which are so horrific, so abusive that it takes a lifetime of hard work to get to forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy. It never is. There are times when forgiveness seems to be beyond what’s humanly possible. But the Christian faith has never been about what’s humanly possible.

Our faith is centered on the fact that a man by the name of Jesus died on the cross. The cross is a difficult thing, it always has been. It’s a stumbling block Paul says. Think of the different symbols of the religions of the world. The Jewish faith has the star of David. Islam has the symbol of the crescent moon. Buddhism has the symbol of the Lotus flower.

Those are beautiful images drawn from the beauty of nature. And then we have the cross, a symbol of shame and humiliation as the Romans intended it.

    A. The claim of the Christian faith is that in Jesus’ death God took on the sins of the world, all of the hatred, guilt and rebellion against God and placed it on the back of His own Son.

    B. It was a scene so horrific that God’s creation couldn’t look on and an earthquake struck at the moment of Jesus’ death. Rocks split open and the tombs of OT prophets came open and the temple curtain, that which separates us from God, was ripped in two. And in that event, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for our sin. In Jesus, God was doing something for us that we could not do ourselves. He paid a debt that you and I owed. Isaiah described it this way 700 years before Jesus: “Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

She was given the name was 66730 when she arrived. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister. Her freedom, her dignity, her humanity had been stripped away by those who imprisoned her and yet she survived. They had robbed her of everything she ever possessed but they couldn’t rob her of the one who possessed her, Jesus. Yet Corrie ten Boom. saw every day in Ravensbruck as a chance to minister to someone more needy than herself, and then one day she was released. As suddenly as she had become a prisoner she was freed, and her solitary aim was to minister to others. When the war was over, she began traveling and speaking sharing her Savior and what he had done for her while in the concentration camp. And then one day, something happened that shook her to the very center of her being.

“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there, the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsy’s pained face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fraulein, “ he said. “To think, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man: was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so, I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that this world’s healing hinges, but on Jesus’. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, Jesus gives, along with the command, the love (and forgiveness) itself.”

Forgivenessis the key!

Thanks Be to God!