January 1, 2018

No Trespassing into the New Year

This first day of the New Year presents us with the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate the past, let go of anything that needs forgiving, and resolve to keep our relationships with God, ourselves, and others free of obstructions.

The Lord’s Prayer or Our Father reminds us to do this every day. Indeed, Jesus teaches us to ask for God’s forgiveness with the understanding (condition?) that we, too, must forgive.

Most translations of the Matthew 6 version of the prayer call us to forgive “debts,” but that connotation of a monetary obligation can be confusing. To clarify, Jesus goes on to say:

“If you forgive others their trespasses against you, your heavenly Father will forgive yours too, but if you do not forgive them for their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours,” Matthew 6:14-15.

In addition, Christians in many church denominations regularly pray the Our Father, asking God to:

“Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.”

In my church, we not only pray the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday, we end each Bible study session with this prayer Jesus gave to His followers. But, this Sunday, one of our newer members told me he couldn’t think of any trespasses against him!

I had to laugh. Moments earlier he had expressed concern for a woman who lived in one of his rental properties. When she couldn’t pay her rent one month, he lowered it from $800 to $500, which she reportedly could handle. But then, when she didn’t pay even that lesser amount the next month, he told her $100 would be okay.

When she made no attempt to pay anything toward her rent or make any arrangements at all or even discuss the matter, he reluctantly told her she would have to move. The deadline came and went, and she remained – rent-free – in his house, despite the financial responsibility this put on him. But here’s the thing:

It did not even occur to him that she had trespassed against him!

Although it’d become clear that the woman was taking advantage of him by staying in his house, she continued to trespass on his property. She kept increasing her debt. And yet, this man took no offense. He did not see himself as being victimized or put upon.

Seeing this Christlike response, I realized that forgiving those who trespass against us is the bare minimum we’re to do!

Greater than our need to forgive is the God-given ability for giving others empathy, kindness, the benefit of the doubt, and the generosity of a loving spirit that isn’t even offended!

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

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