I have never really said the word ‘trespass’ when praying the Lords’ prayer. I’ve always said ‘forgive us our sins (or debts) as we forgive those who sin against us’ instead. And I’ve never been keen on ‘art’, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’ either. I know that the olde English words can evoke a sense of reverence but they’re outdated and, for me, they make the prayer seem outdated, even irrelevant, too.
But this week I’ve wondered if trespass is a better word after all. It’s because the word trespass has a broader more accessible feel to it than the word sin.
‘Trespass’ feels different to ‘sin’ because I don’t only see it as defined mainly by moral boundaries, linked to right, wrong, reward and punishment, as I might see sin. Of course it can include that but it can also be more relational or subjective. For example: if you were to cut-me-up in your car or not say thank you for a birthday present, I wouldn’t really judge it as a sin, but I might hold it against you because you’ve crossed a line, trespassed into my sensitivities. The line may not have been visible or even in the ‘right’ place, you may have done nothing wrong, but if it’s there and it’s been crossed then I’d need to forgive you anyway. Those are the lines that people cross the most – the ones they don’t know about and, of course, the ones they don’t think should be there. To forgive others of their trespasses means that you don’t have to identify them as sins you just have to forgive them for going where you didn’t want them to go.
And to ask God to forgive us of our trespasses is to ask him to forgive us for going where we shouldn’t have gone, for crossing lines we had no right to cross and even for invading spaces we didn’t know were off limits.
All of which are far too easy to do, in practice and in the mind.
I know I've been there. Done, said and thought things that I wouldn't call a 'sin' as such, but have later thought: "maybe I shouldn't have...", or "I wish I hadn't...".
The good news is that an open attitude to forgiving and being forgiven for trespassing means we can live without being offended, without guilt and without having to define each sin on a moral severity chart.
It’s got to be worth it.
So: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”