Can I Forgive? Do I want to?
Today’s sentence from our Christian family prayer is “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As I think about this verse, the little word “as” stands out for me. Forgive “AS” we forgive. We all need forgiveness. Every one of us makes the occasional mistake, thinks the occasional jealous, miserable thought. We can all sit in judgment of others. And of course there are the collective sins that we incur as a society. We of this western part of the world all profit in many ways through the exploitation of our earth and of others. Yes, not one of us is perfect. We all need forgiveness. Of course, we need to pray “Forgive us our trespasses, sins, debts or whatever word we want to use.
But Jesus didn’t leave it at that, even though he knows God’s forgiveness is unconditional and always available to us. Jesus added “AS,” such a little word, yet it is the vital, operative word in that sentence.
There is an old saying, “Be careful what you pray for. You may get it.” When we pray this sentence in the “Lord’s prayer,” we are actually asking God to forgive us the same way we forgive others. Oh dear! We know how hard it is to forgive, especially those who have hurt us deeply. The more we love, the more we lay ourselves open to be hurt. Our life partners, our children, our siblings, our parents have the ability to cause deep, deep wounds in our hearts. Loving God, forgive me. As I forgive my husband who never notices the things I do to make his life comfortable, forgive me. As I forgive my wife who never notices when I do something nice for her, forgive me. And those are simple “trespasses, debts, sins.” Many times, someone we love has hurt us, tramped on us, even stolen from us.
Do we really have to forgive them, Lord? When we pray Jesus’ prayer we are asking God to wait for us to forgive others before forgiving us.” I believe that Jesus was pushing his followers, us included, to live what we believe. We want God to turn the other cheek, to give us another chance. As Jesus’ followers, that is our calling, too.
Every time we pray this prayer, may we look at our lives, name the people who have hurt us and ask God to help us let go of our deep hurt and forgive. Hanging on to the hurt is like taking poison ourselves and thinking it will hurt someone else. Forgive as we forgive. Yes, Jesus, help us to forgive, to let go of the baggage that brings harm only to us, to be free. Amen