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Recently, our minister discussed the Lord’s Prayer during our service.  He specifically discussed the passage that I’ve highlighted below.

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done
On earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory forever.

He explained that when Presbyterians say the prayer, we say debts because it is the closest translation of the Greek word.  You’ll have to forgive me for not going into the Greek because although he reads Greek, I do not.  The word sinners doesn’t appear until several verses after Christ gives the disciples this prayer.

Yet many Christians use the words tresspasses or sinners for two reasons.  It is used later in the passage.  It does not have that feel of dirty money.

Me?  I really have no trouble with debts because we don’t alway use it to mean money.  When a friend does you a favor, you might say, “I owe you one.”  You don’t mean one dollar.  You mean one favor.

And, let’s face reality, we end up owing each other quite often.  When I’m attempting to get the wet coffee grounds to the trash can and dribble all over my husband’s freshly mopped floor?  I clean it up and I apologize.  I hate mopping the floor!

When I was working a swim meet and a swimmer on deck smacked me in the face, he owed me one.  Boy, howdy.  I saw stars and dropped my clip board.  He’d only been stretching but when he threw his arms back he caught me looking down.  I can’t tell you how often he said that he was sorry.  His debt was well paid!

If you spend any time online, you’ve seen the posts.  People gripe about the smallest things.  Instead of forgiving the debts of others, they tally them up.  The problem is that collecting debts like this can weigh you down.  That is why, in my not-so-humble opinion, these people seem angry and unhappy.

Forgive the debts of others.  Don’t just do it because you want God to forgive you.  Do it to lighten your load.



Last month, Pope Francis made headlines by suggesting that it may be time to change the words of the Lord’s Prayer from “Lead us not into temptation” to “Do not let us fall into temptation.” The reason for this proposed change is to negate the notion that God would ever lead us into sin.

I started to write this post last month, but held off, as I kept finding the post coming back to #MeToo and things we’ve been hearing from the president. Hoping to steer away from topical, highly-charged issues and back to the prayer itself, I realized that this prayer is timeless as well as timely. Maybe the reason I can’t stop finding its resonance in the news and in the world at large is that it’s not only relevant – still – but it may contain solutions to these problems.

It’s more important than ever for anyone in a position of authority to seek God’s counsel to avoid the temptation of abusing their power. And the need to forgive seems just about continuous of late.

I looked at the wording of various translations of the line about forgiveness.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (New International Version)

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Roman Catholic version)

Forgive us for doing wrong as we forgive others (Contemporary English Version)

I’d like to add my own version, if you’d indulge me:

Hold my hand as I walk the path so I don’t lose touch with my own humanity.

Make me mindful that, at my worst, I’ve been unkind.

So when another child of God aims their pain at me, it’s best for my soul to let it go.

If only we had a universal translator to sort through what people are really saying, maybe we’d see that the world is a neighborhood. Everyone we meet is extended family. Somewhere between intention and interpretation, healing awaits.

Since the beginning of this humble blog, there has been one post that is always the most popular in Google searches. It was written by our SueBE a few years ago, yet every single week, it’s a topic that new visitors seek out. It’s called, “Which Word is Right in the Lord’s Prayer – Trespasses or Debts?”

So I thought it might be time for us to re-visit the subject. It also relates to the wave of men accused of sexual impropriety in the news lately. Most of the offenders seem to be using a template to (sort of) admit wrongdoings, and it goes something like this:

Offender Template

𐄂 It was ___ years ago

𐄂 I don’t remember it

𐄂 But if it did happen, it was probably:

  • All in good fun
  • Crossed signals
  • Semi-consensual
  • Inadvertent


✅Some of the accuser’s facts are not accurate

Part of the problem with these statements is the fact that the offender never really owns up to the offense. It negates the apology, if you want to call it that. In fact, not one of the men in these situations has said, I was completely wrong. I’m so ashamed. I hope you can somehow find it in your heart to forgive me.

And that’s the thing that always gives me pause when I reach this line in the Lord’s prayer, “…And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

What if the person who wronged us hasn’t asked our forgiveness?

What if they don’t think they did anything wrong?

Or worse, what if they don’t care that they’ve caused pain?

So that’s been on my mind as we deal with these unsettling revelations in the news.

Can you forgive if the offender doesn’t even acknowledge the offense?

What do you think?

I had to smile when I read Lori’s post, “No Trespassing . . . Violators Will be Forgiven.” The community where I live is very Catholic. Whenever a group says the Lords Prayer, you sense some hesitation. “Forgive us. . .” and then the pause. Which will it be, debtors or trespasses? We Presbyterians say “debtors” while our Catholic neighbors go the trespasses route.

I’ve always wondered why my Catholic neighbors use one word and we Presbyterians use the other. I know it isn’t a Protestant Reformation issue because my Lutheran friends also say “trespasses.” So what’s the deal?

The Lord’s Prayer or, as Lori calls it, the Our Father is found in Matthew (6:9-13). Apparently in the original, and I say apparently because I have never read the original Greek, the word is opheiletes which is translated as debts. This doesn’t necessarily mean money but can also mean anyone who owes you because they have wronged you.

The word trespasses comes into play in verse 14 which includes the Greek paraptoma, which translates as trespasses. Those of us who read scripture and other early religious texts in English are always working from translations and that is something we cannot forget. As soon as we start to look at who translated what when, we see a volley back and forth between debtors and trespasses.

1395 Wycliff made the first English translation of the Bible. He used debtors.
1526 The Tyndale translation followed and he used trespasses.
1549 Book of Common Prayer still used trespasses.
1611 And with the King James Bible we are back to debtors.

Which word is better? On the surface, they mean slightly different things. Trespasses means, as Lori discussed, having crossed a line that may or not be clearly marked. Debtors implies that someone owes you and hasn’t settled the debt.

Initially, I would have said that last part of debtor’s meaning is vital. They haven’t settled the debt. Perhaps they haven’t acknowledged it. Perhaps they deny it. No matter. Christ himself told us to forgive them. Yes, we want them to come clean but there’s no point in waiting. We’ve got our marching orders.

But then I reread Lori’s post:

That’s what makes the surrounding part of the prayer so sweet: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Yes. It means that we are forgiven our trespasses, intentional and accidental. It also means that we forgive our trespassers — even those who don’t know they’ve trespassed, who didn’t see the line, who don’t realize they’ve stepped on metaphorical private land. You know, the ones who step on our hearts.

Not that different after all. And yet these word games can become all important in separating one set of believers from another. Why do we let that happen? Fortunately, God has already promised to forgive us our trespasses even as he commanded us to forgive our debtors.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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