Many of us have memorized the Lord’s Prayer, including this line:
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The original Greek word for “trespasses” is epheilemata which could also be translated as debt, or sin.
But what I want to emphasize today is how the entire sentence should actually be phrased in English. I’ll include both “trespasses” and “sins” together simply as a reminder of the wider concept. With that in mind, here’s a more accurate translation of the line with an original emphasis that I think we’ve lost:
“And forgive us our trespasses/sins, as we also have forgiven those who have trespassed/sinned against us” (Matthew 6:12).
Did you notice the difference?
In the version many of us have memorized, we are asking God to forgive us for our trespasses and sins, just as we are in the habit of forgiving those who trespass and sin against us. But the more accurate translation highlights the fact that we are bold enough to ask God to forgive us only because we have ALREADY forgiven those who’ve trespassed/sinned against us.
It’s as if Jesus is presuming that we will FIRST forgive others before we have the audacity to ask God to forgive us.
That’s an emphasis we need to get back. We should be so powerfully moved by the love of a God who is ready to eternally forgive us that we are proactive and free in the forgiveness we extend to others. As I’ve said before, forgiven people forgive people.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus presumes that we will FIRST forgive others before we have the audacity to ask God to forgive us.
By Matthew Ruttan