Today: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Lord's Prayer - forgive us our sins    (8/7/2016 1)


Nowadays we tend to use the word ‘sins’ instead of ‘trespasses’ when we pray this prayer, because the more old-fashioned word ‘trespass’ has come to mean being on someone else’s land without permission.

And that reminds me of my childhood… I can still remember the smell of the air-raid shelter; neither a particularly pleasant nor unpleasant smell, just very distinctive. During the Second World War (when I was, of course, very young), living near a railway line on the outskirts of London, the shelter was a regular refuge from the bombing.

After the war, the underground shelter at the end of the road was out of bounds and not a good place to be.  But it was still a temptation—and, even more, was in a very tempting playing field through a broken fence.  The trouble was that the field belonged to a factory, and there was a big sign on the fence saying, “Trespassers will be prosecuted.”

It didn’t stop us, but it gave me a guilty feeling. What if we were caught playing cricket on their grass, or down the shelter where we weren’t supposed to be?

That memory has always coloured the words of the Lord’s Prayer for me: “Forgive us our trespasses (sins)...”  Deliberately being in the wrong place at the wrong time could mean trouble: would we be let off?

In a more general sense, ‘trespass’ means crossing over a boundary, which is one of the key meanings of ‘sin’. But does it matter—and, especially, does it matter if we’re enjoying ourselves?

Boundaries sometimes seem arbitrary or just there to stop our pleasures. But the sins that Jesus probably had in mind in giving us this prayer are more personal. If I hurt or endanger someone else, if I willfully put myself in danger, if I am concerned more for what I want rather than what God wants, I have stepped across a line that was there to protect them and me. Sometimes we do that in the innocence of youth, or without thinking of the consequences, or sometimes quite deliberately. Continuing on that path, in a dangerous or harmful place, could be disastrous.

This prayer, then is a wake-up call to stop us in our tracks and turn us around—for our own benefit and for the sake of others. ‘Lord, forgive us when we get it wrong’. And that, Jesus is telling us, is a prayer that God responds to with love, understanding and forgiveness.

But we also need to learn to treat others the same way. “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Of course, other people hurt us or upset us sometimes. Forgiving them may, at times, be very difficult—sometimes almost impossible. But as we face that cost, we are not only learning that forgiveness costs God something too, but we are making room in our own hearts to receive the forgiveness he offers.

Perhaps the ‘No trespassing’ notice is there not only to protect someone else’s interests, but to protect our own.

Pray: I pray for the ability, honestly and simply, to recognise where I have gone wrong, where I have hurt others, where I have not lived up to God’s expectations or even my own, and for the grace to say sorry. I pray for the ability to receive God’s forgiveness, to know his love, and to share these gifts with those around me.

Think about: Boundaries are often seen as oppressive, as things to fight. But are there lines that need to be drawn and maintained for our own good, and for the well-being of our communities? Has God given us some boundaries for good reasons?

Challenge: How do you treat those who step onto your patch, intrude on your space, hurt your feelings, or damage your life in any way? Could this prayer make a difference?

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