Forgive Us Our Debts…

Sep 21, 2020

Forgive us as we forgive…

Debt forgiveness is a topic that is hotly debated, especially in this complex season we are in. Regardless of where you land politically, as Christians we are called to pray for and about debt forgiveness.  Yes, it can be awkward when we get to that line in the Lord’s prayer, especially when praying aloud with a group of people.  Is this a “trespass, debt or sin group?” it can be telling… I appreciate all three translations and expect there are others that provide helpful insights.

“Forgive us our sins…” is straightforward and definitive.  “For all have sinned…” is a concept we Christians appreciate; anyone can point out sin, its rampant in others, frequently harder to reconcile personally and often complicated to consider corporately. “Clarity is kindness” is a concept I’m embracing.  Sin as a term is clear. It indicates morality, right and wrong, up or down, sin pushes against the concept of a middle. To pray without ambiguity, especially in our context, has tremendous value.  And, there is good reason to consider and pray through ambiguity.

“Forgive us our trespasses…” seems more benign, yet it clarifies that lines have been crossed, boundaries have been broken.  Trespassing also is politically loaded, perhaps this is a good reason to use the term, at least occasionally.

“Forgive us our debts” implies something is owed. It is a neutral term, not necessarily indicating right or wrong, rather an imbalance.  To restore balance, without forgiveness, requires restoration, repayment, restitution or another “re-“ word. Many these terms are synonyms for reparation, yet another loaded term in our context, well worth considering and praying about.

Whether we use the word sin, trespass or debt, the critical concept is brokenness.  Something isn’t ideal, as designed, intended, complete or ordered.  In every case, with or without forgiveness, brokenness remains to be addressed.  It is this brokenness we both invite God in, and join with God through prayer.

“In” and “through” are central concepts for church planting. As disciples are made God works both in and through us to build the church.  The conjunction “as” in the prayer for forgiveness points us to God’s work both in and through, especially in the realm of brokenness and grace.  We forgive as we are forgiven, without merit.

Churches are planted because planters are forgiven and forgiving others, in so doing, planters teach people to embrace and provide grace.

In this broken world we live in, our hope is in Jesus Christ, embodied through his bride the church. As the church, our ministry of reconciliation, of pointing to and providing grace is central.  Every time we pray for and provide forgiveness, whether considered a sin, debt or trespass, we help build and embody the church, beginning with ourselves.

New churches are the most effective way to introduce people to the forgiveness Christ has provided.  As we pray for forgiveness and forgive others, lets be mindful of how God is growing the church through forgiveness, praying for more, and continuing to plant!

As West Regional Executive, Nathan implements Stadia’s overall strategy in the western U.S., focusing on partner development, U.S. church planting, global church planting and Stadia advancement. Before coming to Stadia, Nathan played a key role in our Global Church Planting strategy as a Compassion International Church Relations Director. He also has first-hand U.S. church planting experience, having led in a church plant re-launch in New Orleans post-Katrina. As an adoptee and adoptive father, Nathan is passionate about children who come from difficult backgrounds. Originally from inner-city Minneapolis, Nathan grew up in a Christian home in a culturally diverse environment. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Minnesota, working in sports broadcasting and spending all his free time rock climbing, he hungered for greater purpose. He served a church in Juarez, Mexico for a year and a half, which led him to seminary, where he caught the church planting bug. Nathan and his wife Joy have three young children: Benicio, Taegen and Grace. The Hawkins are a family that welcomes foster children and love connecting with the local church.

Nathan Hawkins

West Regional Director, Stadia