A Second Look at ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’

“Forgive Us Our Trespasses” Matt. 6:12a

–A Second Look–


           “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” 

I heard this slogan for the first time early in my career from a young office mate who attended an expensive, boys-only sectarian school in Manila. The school was known for their strict rules.

Perhaps it is the straitjacket school environment that caused some of  the boys in the school to adopt the slogan as a “strategy” to cope with their circumstances.   I must confess I, too, have entertained such an attitude in my life.

But the attitude misunderstands what asking forgiveness is.  It is wrong.   It reduces asking forgiveness to a mere mental activity; there is no turning around of the heart that accompanies true repentance. It is a self-serving way of justifying premeditated acts that we know are contrary to God’s Word. It is repentance in our own terms, not in God’s terms.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who resisted Hitler and the Nazi regime called this attitude “cheap grace”. It is availing of God’s grace and forgiveness without the concomitant obedience that comes with true repentance.

Bonhoeffer writes:

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like the cheap wares of a bargain huckster.  The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut away prices… Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system… An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ…”

He contrasts cheap grace with costly grace: “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field… It is the pearl of great price, to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him…. Costly grace is costly because it asks us to follow Jesus Christ.


“Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son.  Jesus paid for this grace by giving His own life on the cross.”

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