Forgive us our trespasses

In the Lord’s Prayer, we are reminded: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Sep 11, 2021


By Fr Andrew  Kooi

Over the years, I have observed how children play and interact. I noticed that, in quite a number of cases, children seem to find it so much easier to forgive and move on. For example, while in the midst of playing a game, all of a sudden, a quarrel happens and some children walk off in a huff saying, “Hummph! Don’t want to friend you!” The funny thing is, after a short while, these children come back together again to play, as if the quarrel or incident that had just happened, had not occurred in the first place, or that it was nothing or not a big deal. Instead of allowing such an incident to boil over, the children were willing to bury the hatchet, so to speak, and move on.

What happens when adults get into a quarrel or even a fight? Are adults able to forgive and move on just like children do? From my personal experience, I’ve observed that adults find it tough, or even impossible, to forgive and move on. Why is this so? It is because some of us develop a big ego or swelled-up pride as we grow older, and together with prejudice and possibly a “kiasu” or “don’t want to lose” attitude, we refuse to apologise even when we are in the wrong, or refuse to forgive when others have wronged us. Some of us may also have developed low self-esteem, and think that we are the victim and others are the oppressors, causing some to be unable to forgive.

But what did Jesus teach us about forgiveness? Jesus simply taught us that forgiveness is a two-way street. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are reminded: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus even warned us, “Make every effort to reconcile with your adversary while you are on your way to the magistrate. Otherwise, he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and the officer may throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Luke 12:58-59). Also, we are reminded: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” (Matthew 18:21-22). What this means is that we must learn to forgive others, just as we petition God to forgive us. We cannot expect to only receive forgiveness from God or from others, if we ourselves are stubbornly refusing to forgive.

Of course, it is not easy to forgive, especially when others have hurt us badly. But if we recall clearly, Jesus, even on the cross, chose to say, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Some of us may argue: “But Jesus is God, and surely that makes it easy for Him to forgive!” But we must remember that Jesus was also a man, and even in human limitations and weakness, He chose to show us an example by forgiving, instead of remaining hostile, holding grudges, or even keeping the bitterness inside. Jesus shows us that, like children, the issue at hand is actually not a big deal after all. It is we who make what seems to be a molehill into a mountain.

So, the question is ... are we willing to set aside our pride, prejudice, and ego, and learn to forgive? Or have we become so entrenched in anger, insecurity, hatred and fear that we are easily hurt and unforgiving? Why do we allow ourselves to be snared or eaten up by unforgiveness, when God is offering us peace, happiness and freedom when we forgive?

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