We pray every week, in most of our congregations, the prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The assumption, I believe, is that there will be experiences of trespass to deal with, right?! Jesus would not have included this imperative into the disciple’s school of prayer if it wasn’t going to be a rather ongoing need.
And one of the things about this whole idea is that Jesus doesn’t distinguish between major and minor offenses, does he? There isn’t an asterisk in the prayer that identifies certain trespasses as exceptions to the rule. And even more than that what Jesus is inviting us to pray is for God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others. That’s a bit of a challenge to me most days. I’m quite frankly, not always as forgiving as I want God to be towards me! But the call is clear, isn’t it? We are to be those who forgive. We are to be those who forgive all who trespass, who injure, who sin against us.
I have listened to some of the comments coming from individuals who had family members killed in the most recent mass shooting in Texas. Their expressions of forgiveness and grace have been deeply moving and meaningful to me. They remind me of the incredible response to the shooting of 11 girls at an Amish school in 2006. In that case the children were held hostage for hours and ultimately 5 were killed and 6 others wounded by the gunman Charles Roberts.
This might be one of those places where we would try to put an asterisk if we were writing Jesus’ prayer. I mean we are willing to forgive some “trespasses” but this is beyond anything that could be expected or even suggested right? There must be an exception here. But a Lancaster, PA paper told a different story.
“In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.
The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.
Later that week the Roberts family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.”
This is incredible grace. It’s the kind of incredible grace God shows us and offers to us every day. May we be those who live out this extraordinary grace with one another even in very troubling times, as we follow the one who shows us the way.