Questions 132 & 133

Christians* say this part of the Lord’s* Prayer in different ways in different parts of the world. Some say the prayer with the word ‘sins.’ Some use the word ‘trespasses.’ Some say ‘debts.’ That is because the Scripture* speaks of sin in many ways. Sin is breaking the law. Sin is falling short of what God wants for us. Sin is fighting against God. Sin is being unclean. The word ‘trespass’ is a word that says that someone is in a place where they should not be. For example, we see a wall, and on the wall is a sign that says, ‘Do Not Enter.’ If we climb the wall and go into that place, we trespass. We enter when we have no right to be there. When we sin, we go outside the law* of God. We enter a place where we should not be.

 

In the book of Matthew*, Jesus* says that sin is like a debt that has not been paid. Matthew was writing to readers who were Jews.* Many Jews talked about sin this way. When we sin, we owe a debt, and we must pay with our lives. We deserve death. We owed a debt that we could not pay. But Jesus paid our debt for us. He died so that we would not have to die.[1]

 

This prayer asks God to ‘forgive us our sins.’ The word ‘forgive’ means to let go. If you are holding something in a cage and you open the door, you let it go. In the Lord’s Prayer, it means to let go of the debt that someone owes to you. You let them go without a demand that they be punished. God has every right to demand payment and punish us. But in this request, we ask him not to. We ask him to let us go. We ask for mercy.*

 

Sometimes, Jesus speaks of God as a judge. Here in Matthew, Jesus speaks of God as a Father. Because of what Jesus did for us, we will not be judged for our sin and put away from God. Instead, God welcomes us into his family. But as children in his family, we want to please our Father.[2] So, we do those things that honor* him. God is pleased with us when we forgive other people who have done bad things to us.

 

This request shows us that the way that we forgive other men and women is connected to the way God has forgiven us. We should be people who forgive because we have been forgiven. If we do not forgive, it is a sign that we do not understand how much God has forgiven us. If we do not want to make a sacrifice* to forgive other men and women, we do not understand how much Jesus sacrificed for us.

 

We forgive people that do wrong. That does not mean that we let them hurt us. It does not mean that we do not speak to them about what they have done. It does not mean that we do not get help from other men and women to get them to stop. It does mean that we do not hold anger in our hearts* against them. Even if they are our enemies, we are not unkind to them or try to hurt them because they have hurt us.

 

Peter* came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven.’[3]

 

And that is why we have to pray this prayer again, and again, and again. Because sometimes it takes time to find the grace* to forgive the person who has hurt you. This prayer reminds us that God has forgiven us for everything. He has taken away our debt. He has let us go free. Since that is true, how can we do any less for all those people who have hurt us?

 

Each time we pray this prayer, we are to remember to thank God that he has forgiven us. And we are to ask for the help of the Holy Spirit* to forgive those whom we need to forgive.

 

And that is the reason those two phrases are joined together in this prayer. It does not mean that God will only forgive me if I forgive other people. That is not how grace works. But it does mean that when I know that God has forgiven me, I will be a person who forgives.


[1] Matthew 20:28; Romans 5:8; Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18
[2] Matthew 6:1-18; Luke 5:16
[3] Matthew 18:21-22; Romans 12:14-21