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Out Our Way: Debts? Trespasses? - Matthew 5:39


Out our way, folks are usually more concerned with living the faith than with arguing over words and other trivialities.

For example, when reciting the Lord's Prayer - some folks say "trespasses" while others say "debts." And sometimes they get so caught up in the wording that they ignore the meaning.

Back in seminary, we had a joke about that very thing. We had both Episcopalian and Methodists in school as well as Presbyterians, so, as the Episcopal and their Methodist offshoot came out of the church of England and the land-owning nobility, they would naturally be concerned about trespassers on their property. We Presbyterians - the Church of Scotland - were noted for thrift and perhaps being tight fisted. Hence Presbyterians would be more concerned about "debts."

Of course, this is a joke, for it is simply a matter of how various translators opted to render the original Greek word into English. Both are correct as far as they go, but it is amazing how some folks get all tangled up in such trivialities.

Now, I noted that as Charlie and I rode for various ranchers up on the Tiger Ridge during roundup, there were many different breeds of cattle. I also noted that Doc couldn't care less whether we were gathering black Angus, red Angus, Charolais, or a mixture of various breeds. As far as he was concerned, a cow is a cow is a cow. When we were pushing the herd from one area to another and a pair took off, Doc really didn't pay much attention to coloring or breed. 

Now, as I am sure most people know, regardless of whether we say debts or trespasses, the point is that all of us have messed up along the way and need forgiveness. There is no one without sin other than Christ - so when it comes to being sinners, we are all in the same category.

The point, as I suspect everyone who really thinks about it understands, is that if we wish to be forgiven for the wrongs we have done, then let us imitate Christ and seek to forgive the wrongs that have been done to us. 

Ask me about the wrongs that have been done to me and, boy, can I tick them off with ease. But ask me what wrongs I have done and for which I need to ask forgiveness, that is far more difficult. Indeed, I can usually find excuses for wrong behavior ... and even ways to twist things around too hear the wrong I did was not wrong at all but a righteous response. Even if maybe it was "wrong" it was deserved and "the other guy's fault."  Boy, am I good at doing that.  

Yet as Doc does not distinguish between the Angus, Charolais, Herefords or mixed breeds, nor does Christ distinguish between Roman Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, nondenominationals or any other brand of Christian.  They are all part of His herd and when we break away from the Way, He seeks us out to bring us back home again. The "green pastures and still waters" are for the whole herd, not just an elite few. And I have never known any breed or mixed breed that wouldn't stray or take off and need to be turned around. I suspect the Lord says the same about everyone one of us. 

So, as I realize my own frailty and tendency to stray, I find I have forfeited all bragging rights or sense of superiority within the herd. And that helps me fit in and start paying attention to the Boss instead of going my own way, for I don't know where the green pastures and still waters are - and can't get there on my own.

The stray who separates from the herd is doomed. Starvation, thirst, exposure, not to mention predators are its future. Forgive my pride, Lord, that separates me from the rest of Your people and so dooms me as well.  I am no better than the rest, and thus none are worse than me. Forgive me and restore me to You - and help me to forgive others that we may be restored to each other.


Brother John Bruington


Brother John has been blessed and taught the Way of the Lord by many others over the years, including Goliath - aka "Doc" - whose horse-sense theology has proven time and time again to be the right trail that Christ would have him follow.


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