Thursday, July 07, 2005


As We Forgive Our Debtors

Now, for all its failings and its perversions over the last 2,000 years—and as much as every exponent of this faith has attempted to dodge this idea—it is unarguably the central tenet of Christianity: that everybody is equal in God's eyes. So you cannot, as a Christian, walk away from Africa. America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day.

What's up on trial here is Christianity itself. You cannot walk away from this and call yourself a Christian and sit in power. Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world—and stop being its apologist.

dig it?

The jubilean provision for the forgiveness of debts is central to Jesus’ teaching, even to his theological vision. The Lord’s Prayer, which sums up Jesus’ thinking about prayer, contains the following request: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Several versions translate this passage incorrectly as: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In reality, the Greek opheilema means a money debt, a sum owed, in the material sense of the word. Jesus is not vaguely recommending that we forgive those who have created problems for us. No, he is instructing us to forgive sins, which includes completely canceling the debts of those who owe us money, that is, to practice the Jubilee.

The material connotation of the word “debts” in the Lord’s Prayer was so obvious that Jesus thought it fitting to add a commentary to the prayer, to explain that the words concerning the debts also applied to “trespasses” in general: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins [the term he uses here is paraptoma, or transgression], your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14–15).

Thus, the Lord’s Prayer is truly jubilean. In this context, Jesus’ listeners understood it to mean: “The time has come for God’s people to cancel all the debts that bind the poor because their debts to God have also been canceled.” Jesus was setting up a rigorous equation between practicing the Jubilee and the grace of God. Although he was not otherwise a legalist and unhesitatingly forgave even prostitutes and people of ill repute, Jesus was very strict on this one point: only he who grants forgiveness can be forgiven. God’s forgiveness toward you is in vain if you do not practice forgiveness toward others.

read the rest here.

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