FORGIVE (The Our Father, Word by Word)

July 27, 2011 | 5 comments

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done,
On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive…

by Heather King

As we FORGIVE those who trespass against us…

We tend to think that God’s will is out of our hands. We tend to resist abandoning ourselves completely out of fear. But to be forgiven as we forgive beautifully leaves the control in our hands. Maybe we can’t forgive. But the choice at least to pray for the willingness to forgive is ours.

Forgiveness goes so against our natural sense of justice that it often seems beyond our reach: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'” [Matthew 18: 21-22]

To forgive, however, is not to be a doormat. A doormat says, “That you hurt me is okay.” The martyr says, “I’m in agony that you hurt me, I’m in sorrow for you and the world, but I’m not going to return violence for violence.”

Just as Christ blew apart for all time the old “law” of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, he also blew apart all notion of counting the cost, hedging our bets, playing things close to the vest. To forgive is not to let someone off the hook—this time. To forgive is not to be outwardly “nice” and inside to plot vengeance. To forgive is to open our arms and heart wide, to remain woundable—as Christ did on the Cross.

What’s important, in other words, isn’t the quantity or extent to which we forgive, but the orientation of heart, the quality, the way in which we forgive. Because in remaining woundable, we don’t just get an equal return: we get more, and of an entirely different order, than we ever could have imagined.

When we stop counting the cost, the universe stops counting the cost toward us. When our hearts overflow toward others, the heart of Christ overflows toward us. The very letting go of our calculating and scheming and fear—not winning; not acting as judge, jury, and executioner—turns out to be what we’ve wanted all along.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” [Luke 6: 37-38]

In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr writes: I believe with all my heart that the Gospel is all about the mystery of forgiveness. When you “get” forgiveness, you get it. We use the phrase “falling in love.” I think forgiveness is almost the same thing. It’s a mystery we fall into: the mystery is God.”


Heather King is a mind-bogglingly talented writer who describes herself as an ex-drunk, ex-lawyer Catholic convert. She is one of my favorite authors. Be sure to check out her books Parched and Redeemed, as well as the upcoming Shirt of Flame. Her blog, also called Shirt of Flame, is a must-read.


  1. Susan

    Great post. I have felt for a long time that many people’s problem with forgiveness is that they equate it with evasion of consequences. What I believe about forgiveness is that it means praying and hoping for the best for the person who offended me, including ultimate repentance and salvation. If, for example, a violent crime was committed, then “the best” for that person may be prison time, and that may be the safest thing for society. I don’t see a conflict between forgiveness and bringing charges on a crime. For people who have offended me, I pray for their salvation and never wish to condemn them to hell, and would try to do them some good if I have the chance. I refrain from taking personal vengeance. I don’t have to be best friends with people I forgive.

  2. Danny

    The assignment to interpret the Lord’s Prayer word for word is a Mt. Everest-like task.
    I have read them all to date, and many are at base camp in analysis, and varied height from there. This post resides at the peak!
    It is marvelously written to encompass a 360 degree view of forgiveness.

    I am deaf (recently) and need to learn ASL (American Sign Language), albeit I read lips very well. (No phone calls; can’t do it). One of the earlier words I learned kind of surprised me.

    Take your fingernails on a chalk board and screech them vertically all the way down.
    It creates a sound that is unbearable to the human ear. We flee from it!
    Now, instead of doing this motion vertically, do the same clawing with your nails….
    horizontally and inward to your body. You are clawing everything toward yourself.
    That motion in ASL is the word “Selfish”….we want everything for ourselves.
    Selfish is an endless quest to be happy by “getting”. But happiness never comes, for if you were to “get” the entire planet, you would remain unhappy that you did not get Saturn.

    Life is NOT for “getting”. Real joy comes in giving something of value to another person.
    Life is not for getting; life is for giving.

    Those who remove the space between the words find even greater joy in “life as forgiving”.

    I don’t remember the author, but I remember the phrase on a calendar at my dentist’s office in 1992. It was a difficult year; hence the memory over time.

    A stork was standing in a swamp with spindle-like legs and feet under water.
    The background was misty and murky with swamp leaves on trees of pale green.
    Another sole stork was flying away…an obvious abandonment of their partner.
    The divorce was permanent.
    The header above was like this post, saying one word: FORGIVENESS .

    The base expressed the meaning of all I viewed in the picture.
    “Forgiveness is accepting the ongoing consequences of another’s behavior, in order that God be reflected to others through me”.

    I was so mesmerized at peering into the eyes of the abandoned stork, and the mixed emotions of grief, fear, puzzlement, loneliness, and more…painted into stork eyes, that I did not even hear my dentist return from his cubicle dancing. (I could hear well then)

    “You like that calendar, Danny?”, he queried and broke me out of a stare.
    I only nodded a “yes” as I had no words.
    I was the abandoned stork and felt the stork eyes as my own.
    Babies at home needed raised by dad. My tooth hurt. My body hurt.
    My soul flew out the window. My heart was blown 30,000 feet into the sky.

    “Why don’t you take it off my wall and take it home with you”, my dentist said, as he sat to relieve tooth pain at a modicum.
    A little bit of “life” came to me that my dentist was “giving” me this calendar of greatness.

    I canned vegetables from my garden to feed our downsized family.
    I picked fresh cukes, and often took a bite on the spot in the garden.
    A crunchy snap resulted.
    In the process of squeezing them into a jar, and then adding boiling pickling mixture over them, I noticed a rare thing.
    If I drew a cuke out immediately after brine pour, and took a bite, would it be a cuke or a pickle?
    What about in an hour? What would it be?
    What about a day, week, year?
    At some point, a cuke is transformed into a pickle, via boiling brine surrounding it, and cooling off.

    A friend came by in a hallway at court a few years later, as I had braced both arms on the wall, head hanging down in disbelief, after a bad judicial system decision would add harm to my children. (It was reversed on appeal).
    What happened to you?”, my friend queried, in concern of my state.

    I explained the “pickling” situation as described above for cukes, and told my friend that I once had a lovely cuke, and she became a pickle. I added: “Once you become a pickle, you can never return to being a cuke again”.

    His reply split my infinity.
    He pondered “once you become a pickle, you can never become a cuke again” and simply replied with an arm on my shoulder, and these words to my heart:
    “NOT necessarily with our God!”

    With my head spinning like a cotton candy machine for a few years, it had never dawned on me, that things are “NOT necessarily”….with our God. HE can turn pickles into cukes!
    Forgiveness came…..but a bit longer to arrive than it takes a cuke to become a pickle.

    God forgive me for taking so long.

  3. Aaron Lee

    Forgiveness Must Be a Habit!

  4. Kimberlie

    Great post! Forgiveness is something I have struggled with both receiving and giving. I’m not sure which is harder for me. Probably receiving. Because I have learned that sometimes, even if I don’t want to forgive, or feel like forgiving, if I just say it out loud, “I forgive (fill in the blank)” and I keep saying it, the forgiveness comes. It breaks through my stubborn heart and I truly mean it. It doesn’t mean that what ever the offense it wasn’t yucky. It just means that I am choosing to let God heal me by offering my forgiveness. Because you really can’t be healed of hurts if you hang on to unforgiveness.

    Now, if I could just do the same with myself and forgive myself for all my stupidity.

  5. Megan

    I needed to read this today. Thank you.

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