Introducing the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
In this fifth petition, we ask our Father for what we need in the life to come: the forgiveness of our sins. When we receive by faith His forgiveness, our Father’s name is hallowed among us, His kingdom has come to us and His will is accomplished in us.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Protestants in traditions which have eliminated daily or weekly corporate and individual confession and absolution may find this particular petition a little puzzling at first. I have heard questions similar to these: Did our Father not forgive all my sins (past, present and future) when I first believed in Christ? Why should I ask for the same forgiveness over again?
Actually, our Father forgave all our sins when Jesus died for them on the cross. “For If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5:10) Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against all sin on the cross. “It is finished.” (John 19:30).
But, if God’s wrath against sin was satisfied on the cross, a problem still remains on our side (pre-conversion): How do we know we are forgiven? How do we know that for the sake of Christ we have a gracious God? We still do not know God as Father. We are by nature enemies of God (Rom 5:10). We are like the prodigal son who is away in the far country. We need our minds changed towards God. But how?
The answer is that God must take the initiative. He must find us through the proclamation of the Gospel for us. “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (Luke 15:6) The miracle that repents us, reconciles us to God, converts our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, is receiving by faith the Gospel that Christ died for our sins, and, for His sake, God has forgiven us all our sins. Then, we have peace with God and a Father to whom we can pray.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)
Because our sinful nature still clings to us, even after initial conversion, the Christian life is one of daily repentance, of turning back to our Father with contrition and receiving His free grace. Even Jesus’ disciples, when beset with the sin of pride, were admonished by our Lord to “turn and become like children….”
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)
The sinful nature in the Christian is like a “natural person[who]does not accept the things of the Spirit”. It desires to turn us away from our Father to go back to the far country, to existence without a Father. When Christians sin, it is our sinful nature at work turning and moving us away from our Father. Sin is a sign of unbelief. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23) Sin separates us from God. The longer our sins go unaddressed, the more difficult it becomes for us to pray to our Father. Unaddressed sin hardens the heart against God.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Prov 28:13)
Therefore, we have a daily need to turn with a contrite heart from our sins to the free grace of our Father for the forgiveness of our sins and the renewal of our lives. Jesus has given us this petition – forgive us our trespasses… – so that we may daily examine our lives, confess our sins to our Father and receive forgiveness. The forgiveness of sins turns us back to our Father with a clear conscience and gives us the confidence to pray to Him as Father for all our needs.
We should never be ashamed of our weaknesses or of our need for daily forgiveness. Remember, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:8) Therefore, let us trust God’s holy Word: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6:14-15)
Following the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus appended this short commentary on the fifth petition. He teaches repeatedly throughout the Gospels the importance of forgiveness between people. Earlier I described how sin separates us from God; but sin also separates us from each other. If forgiveness is the one thing which heals the rift between God and people, it follows that forgiveness is the essential element which heals the rift between people.
This petition teaches us to see our fellow human beings the way Jesus sees them – as people for whose sins He also died and to whom our Father’s arms also extend with grace and forgiveness. As Jesus illustrated in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, our debt to God, which He forgives, is infinitely greater than any debt owed to us by our neighbor.
Therefore, the second half of this petition – as we forgive those who trespass against us – is our pledge to God that we have forgiven our neighbors’ trespasses against us. Further, we ask our Father to hold us accountable for making good on our pledge. Our forgiveness of our neighbors’ trespasses against us signifies that we truly believe that our Father has forgiven us our trespasses against Him.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Ps 51:10-12) Amen.
Next week we will continue with the sixth petition: “Lead us not into temptation.”
I have been vocal in my opposition to the candidacy of Donald Trump for president.
I have been vocal here on this blog, on Facebook, and in real life conversations. I have been more vocal in my opposition to Trump than I have Hillary Clinton.
Now why is this? Is it because I think Trump is a worse choice for president than Hillary? No, I think they both have huge problems and cannot make a qualitative judgment as to who I think is the worse candidate. Is it because I find the things Donald Trump does to be more offensive and revolting than Hillary Clinton? Again, no. Is it because I am concerned for the future of America? Yes I am concerned, but no more with a Trump presidency than a Hillary presidency. Is it because the political party I’m registered to ended up nominating who I believe to be an unbelievably bad candidate and so I am on a crusade to somehow reform the party? No, not really. Is it my pride in rejecting a man I find to be morally repugnant so that I can feel better about myself? Well, if I’m honest, this probably plays a part at times.
But no, far and away, the biggest reason I am outspoken in my opposition to Donald Trump is because I am concerned for the gospel and the name of Jesus Christ and our witness of Him.
We are human and we are going to fail. While there are of course plenty of times we succeed, those of us who are Christians also quite frequently fail in faithfully representing Jesus Christ. This would be not only in our political ambitions or proclamations, but in all areas of life.
However, I have never seen a time anywhere close to what we have experienced over the past year or so where there is such a large scale of publicly and loudly and proudly justifying and rationalizing and minimizing and intentionally ignoring wrongs from the Christian community, including by an appreciable amount of high-profile Christians. Where there is enthusiastic cheering and supporting and campaigning for a person of horrible morals and character. Where there is an intentional strategy to attack and tear down one person of terrible character while protecting another person of terrible character in cunning fashion. Many of these things often even done in the name of God. All for purposes of political expediency.
What must the unbeliever think? How can they take serious our claims of salvation and life in and through Jesus Christ when there is so much avid promotion of those whom are anti-Christ in their behavior? How can they believe our assertions of the morality found in the Word of God when we are so apt to excuse boorish and corrupt and misogynic and deceptive and sexual predatory behavior? How can they believe us when we say God is in control and Jesus is the only way and then turn around and say that we must elect this thoroughly vile or corrupt candidate in order to save our country?
What must Jesus think?
Now, of course, this type of behavior is coming from not only those Christians supporting Donald Trump but also those supporting Hillary Clinton. It is not any more wrong or right when it comes from either side.
But for me, there are a couple qualifiers here.
First, the cries of concern about the morality, most especially with sexual standards, of our politicians and government have long been much louder and plentiful from those on the conservative side of the aisle. You cannot be pounding the pulpit on this matter for years and years and then suddenly act as if it’s not very important. You cannot abruptly start rolling out clichés like, “We’re all sinners, only Jesus was perfect,” or “We need to learn to forgive,” or “We’re not electing a pastor-in-chief,” when you would have never used them before in the same context. (Ironically, these statements would apply equally to either candidate, thus they do nothing to favor the argument for Trump.) You cannot say that all that matters is where the candidates stand on the issues when for many years character has been a crucial consideration. You cannot blast Bill Clinton for his sexual ethics and behaviors and say he is unfit for the presidency because of them and then not say the same of Donald Trump. The list can go on and on. It is all rank hypocrisy.
Secondly, I identify as a conservative, both politically and theologically. And so when I witness this type of behavior from my own, it is more concerning and disturbing to me than when I see it from those who aren’t part of my “family”. And within my family, there are far, far more who are participating in this type of behavior in support of Trump than Clinton.
Therefore, for these two reasons I am compelled to speak out much more against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. (I still have spoken out against Hillary.) In actuality, many times my speaking out about Trump is more in concern with some actions of his Christian supporters, than it is even about Trump himself. Ultimately I speak out because I see Jesus’ name being dragged through the mud of this wretched political season.
I am not advocating that a Christian must not vote for either one of the candidates. I personally cannot, but everyone must vote their own conscience. Despite the extensive difficulties with both candidates, some may see one of them as the better (or less damaging) choice. And I understand the issues that may lead some to see one or the other as the better choice for our country. The purpose of my writing here is not to argue about the issues and the pros and cons of either choice and I would urge the follow-up discussion to avoid the same.
However, as Christians, we are part of a kingdom that is much greater than the temporary earthly kingdoms where we currently reside. A kingdom that transcends all others. Our concerns and enthusiasm for representing that kingdom and its King should far outweigh the concerns and enthusiasm we have for our temporary kingdoms. It is not wrong to be concerned for our earthly kingdoms, not at all. But it is a matter of focus and priorities.
I believe we are seeing that our desperation regarding our earthly kingdom affairs is throwing our priorities askew and causing us to sin. Our intentions may even be good in what we are trying to achieve in the end. But if the means to get to that end are wrongful and sinful, then we need to stop.
There even can be a frequent overlap between the kingdom of God and what is happening in our earthly kingdoms. We may be trying to achieve rightness and justice on this earth for the sake of the kingdom of God. But our lens of focus must always be through God’s kingdom first, not the other way around. I believe we are getting it backwards way too often in this election season.
We are Christians.
The name of Christ is prominently displayed in that label we take. When we are actively and loudly taking political action, we are doing so as representatives of Christ. Sometimes we even specifically attach Christ’s name to those actions. Navigating the muck of this current political morass and discerning what are appropriate and rightful actions has not been easy to do. However, much of what is happening right now should be a million miles away from having a connection to Christ. We need to do better.
1.““Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”” (Revelation 12:10–12 ESV)
The church wages war through faith in Christ, the testimony of the Gospel, and sacrificial love that is willing to follow Jesus to the cross.
My theory would be that if we’re losing the war, it’s because we’re using the wrong weapons…
2.God forbid we would actually recognize the hand of the enemy behind all the strife and divisions…we’re too sophisticated for that…
3.I know I sound like a broken record, but in my heart I believe there is nothing more important to society than the church being the church…
4.I’ve written extensively on the importance of the church holding to it’s moral authority in the world or face losing it’s influence. Moral authority comes from recognizing the law of God as true and being crushed by it, then receiving the Gospel with gladness and living in it. Many have only chosen to be crushed by part of the law while demanding the culture bear the full brunt of it…and we dole out grace as if we’d bought it ourselves…
5.The turning of the seasons with the accompanying darkness and chill have taken a huge toll on me this year…
6.I think if we taught people the theology of the cross we’d have less need for large buildings…
7.The greatest joy I have is when I see T show kindness to someone others are ashamed to be seen with…
8. “Turning back to the Lord” is not a one time event, it’s a way of life…
9.There is nothing more pathologically insane than the liberal description of unborn children…
10.I have not giving up on changing the world…I’ve simply shrunk my world to those God has given me that are close enough to touch…