Thursday, April 13, 2017

Forgive Us Our Debts (Shorter Version)

As a part of my daughter's recent audition for her junior high school Madrigal choir, Macee was required to find and sing a song of her choosing. And with so many songs to choose from, I know the choice was hard.  

The song she finally chose to sing, for the audition, is a beautiful song called "Both Sides Now"

Some of the lyrics are:

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

The beautiful, imaginative, description of the clouds, at the beginning of the song, is later dampened, by a sense of sadness, as the wonderful description of the clouds is countered with a gloomy, crestfallen description of darker clouds, blocking the sun, and bringing with them, the rain and snow of misery and regret.

It is said that there are two sides to every story. And, like these clouds, life can bring both bitterness and sweetness.  While we often go from sweet to bitter, it is possible to go from bitter to sweet.

And, after seeing both sides, finding sweetness is worth every sacrifice.

In the language of law, there are also two sides.

Sometimes, with law,  it's hard to know who's who, between, for example, the grantors and grantees, the mortgagors and mortgagees, the lessors and leasees, or the trustors and trustees.

But, for some words like debtor and trespasser, there isn't a nifty, almost identical word that corresponds with its opposites (like debtee or trespassee).

Yet, if there is a debtor, there most probably will be someone to whom the debt is owed.
And if someone is a trespasser, then there is probably some party with whom the trespasser has trespassed.

Another song that comes to my mind, is a song I have often heard in church. It is usually sung by a soloist. It is called "The Lord's Prayer".

As a young boy, I remember learning all the words to The Lord's Prayer, simply by hearing it sung in the chapel. I never had to recite it aloud, anywhere, I just remember the words from hearing the song.

Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name. [Matthew 6:9]

It is a beautiful, yet simple song, but I have been moved every time I have heard it.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. [Matthew 6:12]

I have read different versions of the prayer, and some versions use the word "trespass" instead of "debt".

But where did the word "trespass" come from?

The word "trespass" is still found in the  New Testament, it just isn't found in the Lord's prayer, but in a verse that follows.

In fact, in the first two verses, directly after the Lord's prayer, the Lord says this about trespasses:

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, you heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive men not their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." [Matthew 6:14]

The first known English translation of the Bible, in 1384, by John Wycliffe used the word debtors in the Lord's prayer. The Tyndale translation, that followed in 1526, used trespasses. The 1611 King James Bible used debtors, which is the word that is commonly used today.

As with any scripture, we could get so caught up in definitions and translations of certain words, like debt or trespass, that we miss the true light of insight and spiritual significance of the message.

Whether it's in the Lord's prayer or the two scriptures that follow, ultimately, we are asking God for forgiveness. 

This is part of the process of repentance: our forgiveness.

The process of repentance certainly includes forgiving others. And, as we repent and seek forgiveness from God, and from those whom we have offended, the promise is, "if you forgive others, you heavenly Father will also forgive you." [Matthew 6:14]

Perhaps the most beautiful word in the English language is "forgiveness"

I felt that way when I heard, for the first time, a song by Kelly Clarkson, as she sang the following words in a beautiful rendition of "It's Quiet Uptown".

They are standing in the garden,
Standing their side by side,
She takes his hand
It's quiet uptown.

Forgiveness . . . can you imagine.
Forgiveness . . .can you imagine!

So, like the sad song, "Both Sides Now", I have seen both sides of sin.

Many times I have been on the side of the sinner. I know that the clouds of sin are dark and despairing. I have walked so many crooked paths, paths that eventually required me to walk the lonely path of repentance.

But, even on those lonely paths of remorse and repentance, I was never alone. I was never alone. In my utter darkness, He was always there, redeeming me, 
and leading me out of the darkness.

If I had not fallen down on my journey there are things I know I would have never seen. 

It is in the defining moments of our own mistakes,
that we learn the meaning of the word. . . mercy.

I have seen both sides of forgiveness. Just as I have looked into the darkest abyss, I have seen and felt the sunlight of a sweeter tomorrow, the sunlit uplands of a better life. I have seen what President Boyd K Packer once called the "Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness".

To know God, is to know His forgiveness. To know God is to know His love. It is to know God's love for you. To know God's love is to know His sweet forgiveness!

When God has forgiven you, the sweetest feeling will resonate within every fiber of your soul!

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! [Alma 36:20]

Yes, to know God, is to know of His joy, His divine approval and the eternal worth of every soul.  To know God, is to know His perfect love.

I have also sought forgiveness from others. I have truly seen the miracle of forgiveness from other human beings. Many have forgiven me, perhaps even when I didn't really deserve it. I have begged for mercy, from others, and they have responded. I have truly been blessed by their love and forgiveness.

But there are still those whom I seek and beg forgiveness from. It may never come, but I readily seek it.

There have also been times, in my life, where I am the one who needed to forgive. I can truly say I have seen "Both Sides Now". I have seen the more difficult side of forgiveness and it has been, perhaps, the hardest pill to swallow.

But when I have done so, when I have freely forgiven, exquisite love has flown, freely. 

And I have seen the joy of forgiveness in another's eyes.

I know this is possible, precisely because, when we do unto others, what we are really doing is extending that love and mercy towards a loving God who has already paid their debts, as He has our own. 

Perhaps it is fitting, that of all the days of the year, today, in a courtroom in Bountiful, advocates will represent debtors who can't afford legal counsel, for some debts I am sure they foolishly incurred. Justice, of course, will be served, but perhaps, this day, for the poor and the needy, for the fatherless, and even for some widows in affliction, there will be some measure of mercy.

Are we not all debtors?

I think of His hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget
?" [See Hymn 193]

It is in these times, times that we forgive others, that we better understand His mercy.

There is "so great a joy" when you bring others to their Redeemer. But there is also a great joy when you love and forgive another.

In these sacred moments, His gift of love can be felt through you. His gift of love and compassion can bless you with Christ-like compassion and love for others; 

for when we see others suffer, we are reminded He both suffered for them and with them.

Oh love effulgent, love divine!
What debt of gratitude is mine 
[See Hymn 187]

All of this is because of Him. All of this is because of His Atonement.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ was the greatest act of selfless sacrifice the world has ever known. The Savior did for each of us what we could not do for ourselves. And, although we can never repay Him, we can serve others, and even serve in the temple, those who have gone before, sacrificing, for others, in a small but similar way as the Savior did for us.

For like the Saviors loving sacrifice, we, within the walls of His temple, can do for others what they cannot do for themselves.

Just over 2000 years ago the greatest miracle occurred in a garden, on a hill, and in a garden tomb. Another Easter both reminds me and allows me the chance to turn to Him, to seek His love, and yes, to seek His forgiveness.

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