Sins, debts, and lapses

Posted Sep 12, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Matthew 6:12, 14-15

12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.

...

14 “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.

Luke 11:4

4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.

Reflection Questions

In addition to hamartia (which meant “missing the mark”), Greek used other words for “sin.” Luke 11:4 used hamartia about our sins, but it used a form of opheleima, which meant “a debt owed to someone,” about what we forgive in others. Matthew 6:12 also used opheleima, while Matthew 6:14-15 used a form of paraptoma, which meant a lapse or slip-up. As in English, sometimes writers used synonyms simply to give variety and life to their writing—but it’s also possible that the different words used give insight into nuances of Jesus' meaning.

  • For Jesus, forgiveness was a fundamental Kingdom reality. If God did not forgive, no fallible human could have hope. But Jesus also knew that it’s simply not credible to claim God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we aren’t willing to forgive others. Do your background and temperament make it easier or harder for you to believe that God truly forgives you, and for you to extend that forgiveness to others?
  • Scholar William Barclay wrote: “Of all petitions of the Lord’s Prayer this is the most frightening. ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’…. It is… quite clear that… if we say, ‘I will never forgive so-and-so for what he or she has done to me’… and then take this petition on our lips, we are quite deliberately asking God not to forgive us…. To be forgiven we must forgive, and that is a condition of forgiveness which only the power of Christ can enable us to fulfill.” Who do you need to forgive?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, all the Greek words apply to me—I have sins, debts and lapses aplenty toward you and others. Forgive me—and strengthen me to forgive others. Amen.


* William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 1. The Daily Study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975, pp. 222-223.

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Wendy Connelly

Wendy Connelly

Wendy Connelly, M.Div., is the host of "MoJo For Moms" Podcast (MoJoForMoms.com; MoJo=Mom Joy!) and magazine column (KC Parent), and hosts The Lift Podcast on spirituality. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the non-profit, "Miracle of Innocence," and teaches classes at Resurrection Downtown and Leawood.

This past weekend I had the honor of working and visiting with 14 men and one woman who spent many years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. When I put together a slide of their photographs and compiled their stories and pictures for the table settings and posters at the Miracle of Innocence Gala event, I counted up the number of years they had all spent collectively in prison.

It added up to 299 years.

What’s so remarkable about this group, beyond their incomprehensible trials, is that a light still shines in their spirits that cannot be diminished by the pit of their collective hell, their literal dungeons of darkness. Indeed, the spark of Light in them shines more brightly than in most. If anyone deserves to be bitter and unforgiving, it’s these men and this woman. Instead, they choose forgiveness. It’s a choice they make every single day. Again and again.

Forgiveness does not condone abuse.
Forgiveness is not forgetting or silencing our stories.
Forgiveness channels the energy of hatred into something creatively redemptive.

These exonerees confront systemic sin, share their stories, and wake the world to the cause of justice. They could operate out of a spirit of hatred, but then they’d still be prisoners. Victims without power. 

They choose, instead, to release themselves from the bonds of hate and channel their anger with the utmost power—the redemptive power of Love.

As I struggle sometimes to forgive in my own life, I look to these courageous souls to show the way: Choose forgiveness. Choose it every day. Channel the dark energy into creative, redemptive Love—and you become more powerful than you can ever imagine.

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