I’ve been wanting to put a sample of my first book of the In Living Color series online The Lord’s Prayer (look here for the UK) so you can see how it’s different than most explanations of this beautiful prayer. I’ll place it as a permanent link on a sample page in the near future. I hope you enjoy it.
as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Many years ago, I went fishing in a place I wasn’t allowed to fish. Winter was coming to an end in central Indiana. Snow was on the ground, but the sun was shining and the air temperatures were kissing 55 degrees (F.). I had fishing fever. I knew a lake where there was a power plant that discharged its warm water into it. The water never froze and people fished there year round. So I grabbed my fishing pole, tackle box, fish basket (I’m always an optimist), and boots.
When I arrived, “No Trespassing” signs dotted a line of fence posts, blocking off an area within three hundred yards of the warm water discharge. Obediently, I fished for an hour on the legal side of the fence line and caught nothing. I noticed two people fishing in the forbidden zone. I saw them catching fish after fish. The fever must have made me delirious because I climbed the fence. When I’m in my right mind, I don’t do things like that.
For twenty minutes, I caught fish after fish, largemouth bass up to five pounds. But then my conscience overcame my fever and said, Get out of here, you’re sinning…and worse, you’re going to get caught. So I left—with a big smile on my face. But as I drove away, the fever came back and a voice on my other shoulder shouted in my ear, What are you doing? This is the best fishing you’ve had in ten years. Go back!
He was convincing. I went back. This time, the white crappie were biting. Cast after cast, I caught them. As I put my twentieth fish into the fish basket, two men in green outfits and wearing badges from the Department of Fish and Wildlife came walking over the hill. I had to release the fish, received a citation for failing to act uprightly, and paid a fine of $86. I suffered the consequences for my trespassing.
I don’t get it. For years I’d prayed to be forgiven for my trespasses. Now the first time it happened, it didn’t matter. No forgiveness. I still had to pay the fine.
So what does it mean to “trespass” anyway? When I think of trespassing, I think of going onto someone’s property who doesn’t want you there—it’s an action where you’re violating the rights, privileges, property, personal space, or dignity of another person. Another way to put it, you’re getting into their bubble—the personal boundaries they’ve established that protect them from possible harm, whether the harm is real or imagined, physical or mental.
There can be visible signs posted around someone that say, “Don’t come any closer.” Sometimes you ignore the signs and follow your own agenda. Other times, the lines are not visible and you might be unaware that your actions are perceived as harmful. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree that your actions are harmful. After all, who was I hurting by fishing a little closer to the warm water discharge? Yet I was trespassing because I had not been given the freedom or permission to be in that space. I had not been considerate of the corporation’s lines. Trespassing is stepping over the lines someone else has drawn and it carries consequences.
This petition, coming out of Aramaic, is one of my favorites. It shows us the concept of trespasses reaches many levels. Look at the various ways it has been translated:
Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l’chaijabên.
Detach the fetters of faults that bind us (karma), like we let go the guilt of others.
Untangle the knots within so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to each other.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Forgive our hidden past, the secret shames, as we consistently forgive what others hide.
Lighten our load of secret debts as we relieve others of their need to repay.
Erase the inner marks our failures make, just as we scrub our hearts of others’ faults.
A one word explanation of the term “fetters of faults” is karma. In the Christian church, we don’t use the word karma enough. I grew up with the impression that karma was a pagan word since it’s connected to eastern religions like Buddhism. We weren’t supposed to mingle with non-Christian belief systems for fear of being tainted by them. Little did I know that I could actually learn something if I broadened my base of knowledge and understanding.
Karma has been defined as the force produced by a person’s actions in one of their lives which influences what happens to them in their future lives. What you do in this life will affect you in the next life that you live in a physical form. Most Christians don’t believe they will come back, nor do they want to, so they don’t use the word karma. Yet if you remove the “future lives” concept from this definition, you can easily apply karma on a Christian level. Karma is simply the consequences of your actions – how your actions influence what happens to you in this life. The consequences can come immediately or they can come days, months, or years later.
If you do good things, good things will return to you. If you trespass or cross some lines where you’re not given permission, there’s a price to pay. Another way of saying karma is “what goes around comes around” or “what you give out is what comes back to you.”
In the Lord’s Prayer, we may be praying, “Let go of our bad karma, the things we owe for our poor actions, as we let go the karma of others.”
“Remove the consequences of our failures to act uprightly, like we don’t make others suffer for their failures to honor and respect the lines we’ve drawn around ourselves.”
“Release, or reduce the consequences of what I’ve done, if at all possible. Have mercy. And teach me to have mercy on others.”
Another translation from the Aramaic takes this petition to an internal level of meaning: Untangle the knots within so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to each other.
Many of our struggles are internal. Traumatic events impact our spirit. Things happen to us throughout our lives that we’ve tied a rope to and won’t let the memory of hurt feelings go. Praying this petition, one might be praying, “Don’t let that thing I did as a teenager that stepped over the lines in someone’s life continue to burden me for the rest of my life.”
“Release me from the continual suffering that has come from my poor choices or actions, and help me remove the suffering I may be inflicting on others for the hurt they’ve caused me.”
Or, “Forgive me for not being as good a parent/child as I think I should have been, just as I forgive others for their failures.”
“Untangle these knots: help me forgive myself for not knowing any better so I can do better today and feel good about it.”
“Release me from any baggage I carry from the mistakes I made when I was foolish, or out of my mind with fishing fever. Don’t let these things haunt me anymore.”
“Untie the knots within that inflame my emotions whenever I think of what someone did to hurt me.”
Each time you think about an event and the hurt it caused carries the potential of tying another knot in the cord. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between the real experience and the imagined one. Reliving the event reopens the wound to feel the hurt again. We pray, “Lord, stop me from reliving it so I can move on to the abundant life. Untangle the knots I’ve tied to this event so I can move forward.”
Of course, the best way to avoid negative consequences for treading into the protective space around others is to become aware that others have personal boundary lines that need to be respected. Treat others the way you want to be treated. This is the sum of the law and the prophets. Respect the personal property and emotions of others. Then they won’t have any reason to react in defensiveness. “In the same way, Lord, when someone trespasses on my feelings, my property, or my space, give me a merciful spirit that does not need an eye for an eye justice to restore my peace.” Your peace is too important to be dependent on what happens to someone else.
Take the time to think about why people act the way they do, and to remember that hurt people hurt people. People often hurt others because they are trying to protect themselves. If you can see deeper into a person’s actions, you can take their responses less personally. Their actions are rarely about you. It’s the knots inside them and what experiences they are tied to that cause them to react in unexpected and hurtful ways.
Let’s do something radical right now. Let’s untangle a knot.
Open your hands in front of you. To forgive (from Greek) means “to let go.” Forgiving hands are hands that are letting go of the failures of someone to treat you uprightly. Forgiving hands are hands that let go of the event that keeps coming to mind and inflames negative emotions of anger or fear or hurt.
In your hands, hold an incident, a conversation, the action of another person, a difficult experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major event or a minor one. What is it that you would like to let go so that it doesn’t burden you anymore? Imagine the experience occurring in your hands.
Now take deep breath. Raise your hands and let it float up and away, through the ceiling, up into the clouds. Let it go. Watch it disappear. It no longer exists. Feel a peace as the burden is released. Take a picture of that letting go experience and store it in your mind.
The next time the hurtful experience starts to creep into your mind, don’t tie another knot to it. Quickly replace the thought of the event with the image of your hands releasing it into the air. Let it go again…and again…and again. How many times—seven times? No, seventy times seven—as many times as it returns to upset you. The memory, like an unclean spirit, will get weary when it sees it cannot hurt you anymore and will gradually diminish its efforts to come back to haunt you.
Karma. Every action has a consequence. You can build good karma in this life by giving out the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These actions violate no one’s personal space. They always enhance the spaces of others and cause them to invite you closer. You will enjoy the karma that comes from these actions: the abundant life.
Copyright © 2012 by Paul W. Meier. Published by Malcolm Creek Publishing, Benton, KY 42025. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.