Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lord's Prayer and forgiveness... sins AND debts

The question arose yesterday in bible study if Jesus was being sarcastic with the petition "forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us." (Luke 11:4 NRSV) After all, we don't forgive everyone who sins against us. And there were good answers in the gathering that Jesus does in fact mean for us to forgive those who sin against us, but that it is an ideal, an ideal that we are to strive for, mind you, not throw our hands in the air because it is unattainable. The Kingdom is breaking in around us after all.

But I was jotting down a few notes this morning for my sermon, and happened to look at my new copy of the New Interpreter's Bible One-Volume Commentary. There in the section for Luke 11, the commentary mentioned that the gracious provision of "Father" forms the basis of the ensuing petitions. The first of those petitions for Luke is the realization of God's Reign, and the third is the petition on forgiveness as I have quoted it above.

And just the simple way this was listed got me thinking. Yesterday we noticed, while comparing both Matthew's and Luke's versions of the prayer that there did seem to be a transactional basis for forgiveness. Our language of forgiveness is couched in financial terms. We are owed an apology. In Matthew our sins are portrayed as debts to God. But I wonder if that is what is going on in Luke. Have we for so long connected debts and sins that Jesus here is saying something else? When Jesus gives us the words "forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us," does he really point to an early practice, rooted in the realization of God's Reign, where Christians literally forgave real financial debts. It would seem to fit within the fabric of Luke's gospel with the great reversal and the care for the poor. It would seem to fit in with the vision of God's Reign as the great Jubilee where debts, real financial debts, are forgiven.

Unfortunately I don't think this takes away any of the questions about whether we need to forgive others before God forgives us. (I don't think we do) But I do wonder if it convicts us in seeking forgiveness from God without our following in those same footsteps forgiving debts to which we will have no ultimate claim when God's Reign comes fully.

No comments: