The biblical bases for this petition of the Lord's Prayer, Luke and Matthew and , were written in part with reference to the biblical seventh-year laws shmitah. They require that after every six-year period, financial debts be relieved and the land lie fallow Deuteronomy Complete debt relief had the unintended effect of drying up loans to the poor, so a workaround was developed to ensure that such loans continued.
As this was second best to complete debt forgiveness, the rabbis of Jesus's era set strict, poor-friendly conditions on lending and interest rates, and the shmitah laws of debt relief remained an important moral principle. We see it reflected in Luke and Matthew , in which what we forgive is derived from the Greek aphiemi , which means to release or remit a debt, with both monetary and non-monetary connotations. By contrast, Matthew uses the word paraptoma , to "trespass" or "sin.
Trocme's reading of two sorts of forgiving - monetary and non-monetary - follows Church fathers. Tertullian, for instance, explained his understanding of forgiveness through the parable of the wicked servant, who refuses to forgive a financial debt even when his own is forgiven Matthew Church historian Christoph Markschies sums up, saying that through antiquity, the debts we are to forgive were understood as both monetary and non-monetary:.
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. And, as often, he is convinced that these two meanings monetary and non-monetary debt are not present by chance but as a sign of the multifold dimensions of sense in Holy Scripture. Luther rendered Luke as "Forgive us our sins Suenden as we forgive all who are indebted schulden to us.
Week Four: “Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us”
Following this, the German Lord's Prayer uses the noun Schuld , which, until the mid-twentieth century, carried both financial and moral connotations. The exception to this tradition is the English Lord's Prayer, which has only trespasses. The connotation of forgiving financial debt recedes. Why should this have happened after 1, years? One possibility is events in early modern England, primarily the enclosure and privatization of formerly open farmland.
This left the aristocracy richer and commoners with nowhere to grow food. Prosecutions against commoners for trespassing on newly enclosed land often to poach game to eat were a frequent activity by the wealthy and a tragedy for the lower classes, many of whom were sent to prison or the gallows. In short, the aristocracy's sin du jour was refusal to forgive real trespassing.
One wonders if this cultural atmosphere contributed to "trespasses" coming to the fore in the Lord's Prayer as what we should forgive. The early Reformed churches, associated with the trading and poorer classes, did not switch to trespasses but retained the financial overtones of debt. Economically, those in the trades needed something like shmitah : a structured bankruptcy and debt forgiveness so that, after an unprofitable venture, they could return to the economy rather than land in debtor's prison.
Calvin, a French immigrant to Geneva and deeply concerned about the poverty of his compatriots there, lambasted the rich for their strict, impoverishing debt collection.
He refused Communion to those charged with usury. In this economic situation, forgiveness of financial debt remained a pressing need and it remained in the Reformed Lord's Prayer. Dale Irvin , president of New York Theological Seminary, notes: "Payment of debts is very much on the minds of the early Reformed thinkers in Geneva, which greatly influenced [John] Knox.
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By the time the Lord's Prayer was being printed in Scottish Presbyterian prayer books, it is always 'debts'. And it remained debts among the Presbyterians and Congregationalists who came to America. They had been key actors in the effort to break the nobility's stranglehold on the economy and give commoners a leg up. We can easily live in a state of self-deception about the ways in which we approach life and fulfill our ethical responsibilities.
Through this prayer, Jesus calls his followers to a freedom that comes from facing life and ourselves with honesty. Thus, each time we say this prayer, we include a petition for mercy, as we also pledge to extend forgiveness toward those who have offended us. We do not engage in this prayer in order to wallow in guilt. As those who believe that the mercy of God has been revealed in Jesus the Christ, we are invited to act on the freedom that enables us to look at our lives for what they actually are.
Experimental Theology: "Forgive Us Our Trespasses." Where'd That Come From?
This healthy honesty involves neither a self-deprecating exaggeration of our own faults nor a rationalizing endorsement of all the ways in which we operate. The freedom to look at ourselves for who we are is anchored in the conviction that honesty about ourselves will not lead to rejection or condemnation. It will not be the end of us. Rather, it can lead to a new beginning, to transformation and deeper freedom. The invitation to come before God with transparency is based on our trust that God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, that God is slow to anger and rich in mercy.
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- Forgive Us Our Trespasses? The Economics of the Lord's Prayer;
In this prayer given to us by Jesus, we also pledge to be forgiving people. This is a real challenge, one that stands as an enduring check against any approach that would cheapen our relationship with God. What do we mean when we pledge to forgive others? The promise we utter to God to be forgiving people does not mean that, when people hurt us, we will pretend that nothing happened.
Denial never gets us anywhere. And forgiving others does not mean denying the feelings associated with the hurt we have experienced, whether those feelings are anger, resentment, a desire for revenge, or just sadness. If we want to work through those feelings, we have to acknowledge and accept them. In my mind at least, forgiving others does not mean simply accepting them without inviting them to grow. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, forgiving others is not something accomplished simply through our own power or virtue. It seems to me that forgiveness is a process, a sometimes lengthy process comprised of small steps or movements.
It is certainly true that God can forgive in an instant on the cross Jesus promised eternal life to the good thief , but it does not usually work that way for us.
Forgiveness usually involves a series of little acts of the will. The deeper the wound, the more involved this process usually is. And it includes prayer for the person who has hurt me. Prayer is not magic. Nevertheless, a simple prayer that God will give that person the grace that he or she needs today can help us see him or her in a different light. There are certainly some offenses which are so painful that they remain with people as long as they live, and complete healing comes only in eternal life.
It appears that, sadly, child abuse is like that. Something did happen — something that may have caused a deep wound in our hearts and minds. Forgiving others is a process that requires honesty with ourselves, others and God.