“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Try to say that five times fast. Yes, all those esses in “trespass against us” will trip you up! But for me, the whole concept of “trespass” has tripped me up for years.
When I hear “trespass” I see a No-Trespassing sign posted on somebody’s fence. Try as I might, I can’t remember ever ignoring such a sign to go on anybody’s property. Nor can I remember any trespassers on my property that I have forgiven for it. This part of the Lord’s Prayer has always flummoxed me because trespass seems so narrow and irrelevant to my life. I wrote it off as King James Jargon and pretty much forgot about it.
Later, a contemporary translation of the prayer used in our church seemed to shed some light. We now said, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Okay, now I can get my head around that. Forgive me for selfish things I did this week, for getting angry at my spouse, and for sneaking that candy bar when I was out shopping. On the flip side, this week I forgave the vendor who pushed a perfume sample in my face (she was just doing her job), the person who put a flier on my windshield, and my spouse who put my good blouse into the dryer though I asked him not to (nobody’s perfect).
But yesterday my friend Mary Lou (channeling the Holy Spirit, which she often does), opened up the word “trespass” to me. As mothers, we both have a weakness for trying to fix or save our children from their own mistakes. All of a sudden I saw that my meddling in my daughter’s life is trespassing on her property—her life. She is an adult now, and when I try to fix her life, I am trespassing. If she tried to fix my life, she would be trespassing, and I wouldn’t like it. Neither does she.
Maybe “trespass” is a pretty accurate word for the ways we torment the neighbors we are supposed to love. We meddle, we give advice, we criticize, we tease, we lecture, and we bore. We need to mind our own business. Forgive us, God, for being such trespassers.