Forgive Us Our Trespasses
C.S. Lewis once said “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” Everyone wants forgiveness but it is a hard thing to practice. When we are offended we want revenge. We want to get back at those who have wronged us. Sometimes there are people whom we think do not deserve forgiveness. Will Campbell was the only white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but he also ministered to members of the Ku Klux Klan. He was criticized for this, but in his mind no one was beyond forgiveness, no one was beyond the grace found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. How far are we willing to go with forgiveness? Is there anyone you would not forgive?
This is a prayer with a condition. We pray for God to forgive us but at the same time we must practice forgiveness in our own lives. We are to imitate God in forgiveness. We must look at how he forgives and seek to do the same thing ourselves. We are forgiven when we practice forgiveness in our own lives. If we refuse to practice forgiveness, then we do not really understand the gospel. If we cannot forgive, then we have not truly understood the cross of Christ. Forgiveness changes the world around us. Instead of choosing to perpetuate a cycle of revenge, we choose to create a cycle of forgiveness. Forgiveness changes us. Revenge, spite, and hatred can destroy a person, but when we practice forgiveness we are near to the heart of God. When we practice forgiveness we are being transformed into his image.
“Forgive our sins as we forgive other sinners”
“Debts” and “trespasses” are perfectly fine translations. I even like “Forgive us what is owed” as a translation, but “sins” and “sinners” hits home with many of us. We may be able to explain “debts” and “trespasses” away but we cannot escape sin. We are guilty, every one of us. We need to be forgiven and we have no excuse not to forgive others.
Psalm 32:1-2 – The one who is forgiven is blessed. When we experience forgiveness, we experience grace. We have received what we did not deserve. We must never forget what a precious gift forgiveness is.
Exodus 34:6-7 – This passage is one of the most important passages in the OT. It is a passage where God tells us who he is. God introduces himself as someone who is “merciful,” “gracious,” and “forgiving.” Forgiveness is in God’s DNA. It is who he is.
Luke 23:34 – This is the ultimate act of forgiveness. From the cross Jesus forgives those who are putting him to death. He forgives them before they are even through with their heinous act. He forgives them before they repent or show remorse. Jesus forgives and this is what we are to imitate.
In order to receive forgiveness we must forgive. Once we become a Christian this is our way of life. Forgiveness is a blessing, not only to those who receive it, but also to the one who practices it. When we forgive we are able to let go of the wrongs committed against us. When we forgive we put everything in God’s hands. We give up our right to seek revenge and we trust God to take care of everything. Forgiveness is more about us than the person who has wronged us. Becoming a forgiving person means we are becoming a Christlike person.
“We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer; it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own…To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.” C.S. Lewis