And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘Forgive us our debts.’ Talking about sin is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the life of discipleship and the duties of the church. There is no denying that talking about sin was a part of Jesus ministry. Both he and his forerunner John the Baptist preached about repentance. One of the memory verses I was encouraged to commit to mind was Romans 3:23 in which Paul writes, ‘for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’
I personally find it challenging to talk about sin because I believe that we are bombarded in our culture today with so much negativity, from talking heads on the various cable new channels, to contrived criticisms and arguments on sports radio, to the daily stresses of life that cause unfair criticism or fair criticism presented in hurtful ways at work or at home. I feel church should be an oasis from all of that negativity. Church should be that one place where we are loved unconditionally and affirmed whole-heartedly.
But even in saying ‘unconditional’ in reference to love, we are, perhaps passively admitting that there are times and situations in which we do not live up to the witness of Christ’s life in terms of forgiveness, reconciliation, generosity, compassion, sacrifice, etc.
Peter Rollins, in his latest book ‘The Idolatry of God’ writes, ‘theological language has a name for this sense of gap at the heart of our being - Original Sin ‘ - it also has a name for the imaginary object that we believe will fill this gap: the Idol.‘ I think that Rollins’ point points us to the reality that many of our sins are not the result of malice or evil on our part, but instead on the very real need/want to experience wholeness. We do not sin out of rejection of God, but out of fear and pain that result from feeling alienated from ourselves and others, or threatened in some way, by others. To admit we sin is to admit that as human beings existing in a sometimes threatening and always broken world, we choose Idols to bring us comfort or stability and in this way, contribute to our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world. I don’t think this excuses our sin, the way it deforms us and others. But it is a more honest way of looking at ourselves and the world. This is also not to say that some people do not carry out truly evil actions.
So praying, forgive us our debts/sins and repenting is not meant to stir within us feelings of guilt and unworthiness as a person. It is the confident prayer of one whose admits sickness and is reaching toward the only source of lasting healing.