One of the fascinating aspects of the Lord’s Prayer is that each line can be broken down and dissected to bring forth powerful meaning. The prayer, which takes less than 30 seconds to say has been written about and thought about for centuries and its hidden meanings are still being uncovered. As I have learned to practice this prayer in my own life it has challenged me and transformed me on many levels. One such line is the request, “Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
This line has almost always challenged me in my need to forgive others. Often, as I have prayed this prayer a face will come to my mind; someone who has wronged me in some way that I hold anger against them. And as I would pray I would be reminded that I must let my anger go, I must forgive whether this person has ever asked for forgiveness or not. I will admit it is easier said than done, but over time this prayer has helped me to release the anger, to release the hurt and to forgive those who have trespassed against me.
Recently though I’ve been challenged that possibly the first line is more difficult than the second. That the harder task is not to forgive my neighbor, but to actually ask for forgiveness in the first place. Because to ask for forgiveness means that I am admitting I make mistakes. And while all of us will openly say we know we mess up, how often do we really admit our shortcomings, how often do we name our sins and are needs for forgiveness? We usually don’t because there is a part of us that doesn’t want to admit we actually sin.
Stanley Hauerwas in his commentary on Matthew says this; “In truth we find it easier to forgive than to be forgiven. We do so because so much of life is spent trying to avoid acknowledging we owe anyone anything. Yet to be a follower of Jesus, to learn to pray this prayer, means that we must first learn to be forgiven. To learn to be forgiven is no easy lesson, desiring as we do to be our own master – if not creator. But to be a disciple of Jesus demands that we recognize that our life is a gift that requires, if we are to live in a manner appropriate to our being a creature, our willingness to accept forgiveness with joy.”
“…so much of life is spent trying to avoid acknowledging that we owe anyone anything.” Whether we want to admit it or not, that line is true. We don’t want to admit our mistakes, we don’t want to admit that we have debts that need paid, we don’t want to admit that we have transgressions that need to be rectified and erased. But to stop and ask for forgiveness. To stop and take the time to name our sins, or to have them pass before our minds. To have to admit to anyone outside of ourselves that we actually do sin, not just generically, but to name them (pride, greed, lust, envy…) takes a courage that many of us are not able to muster very often.
And so Jesus models a prayer that says “Father forgive us.” Just as we know and can name all of the sins and shortcomings of those whom we need to forgive, God we admit those same faults. Just as we can accurately name the times when we have been wronged, God we openly name the times when we have been in the wrong. And we ask, we plead, we beg for your forgiveness.
And he grants it. God grants us forgiveness. Even though we know we don’t deserve it because we know how bad we’ve been, he still grants it. And that recognition finds Joy in Forgiveness. We have joy because after admitting our mistakes we recognize how truly magical forgiveness is, to have a second chance. And we are filled with joy and love for our Creator.
Lord, Forgive Us…