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