Consider this part of the Lord's Prayer:

"and forgive (1) us our offenses, as we also have forgiven (2) our offenders"

"perdoai (1) as nossas ofensas assim como nós perdoamos (2) a quem nos tem ofendido"
in Portuguese, as I remember it

If someone has offenders, he or she needs to forgive them (2), in order to be forgiven (1)?

(1) Those who are not forgiven, are going to hell?

(2) Therefore, it looks like he or she needs to forgive EVERYBODY (including corrupt political leaders), or not?

Isn't this a colonialist and evil counsel?

  • 1
    You didn't quote the part of the Bible that says you go to hell if you don't do this.
    – user319
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:43
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey The OP might be thinking of Matthew 7, but that could be a different thing depending on your interpretation. "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
    – user10479
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:50
  • 3
    Is this really a philosophy question, or a religious one?
    – user319
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:51
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey I think it is a philosophy question, but it cherry picks a very small part of a very large Christian topic: Forgiveness. FWIW, it would be off-topic on Christianity.SE for being about general philosophy and not necessarily about Christianity.
    – user10479
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:56
  • 4
    This is only valid if you define the term forgiveness as equivalent to tolerance, which the original text does not.
    – nmclean
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:48

9 Answers 9


But it is much more a part of corruption to hold and manipulate debts than to release them. Debts are more often paid off by the wealthy and held over the poor as threats. So it decreases the power of the corrupt if history is not allowed to accumulate over time.

To limit the accumulation of debt, there was once a tradition in Jewish law to allow debts to only be held for so long, often 7 years, and for entire communities to release everyone's debts every 49 years and start over with a clean slate. Jesus is suggesting amplifying this, and not holding debts at all.

It is true that this lets abusers off the hook. But in the end, the momentary abuse is generally nothing compared to the leverage of accumulated manipulation that is the norm in our culture.

Also, you releasing your debtors is not a requirement for you to be forgiven. The word is 'as', in the same way, not 'as' in the sense of 'because'. It cannot be true that, as Jesus told the Apostles 'those you hold accountable, are held accountable' if those folks then get forgiven by forgiving others.

In a Catholic interpretation you get forgiven by the Law, or by the Church (who inherits that power granted by Jesus from the Apostles), and not by your own doing at all. In a more Calvinist interpretation it is not your place to judge, it is God's, and you have to forgive others just because you have no power or incentive not to do so. Your attempt at power is chasing an illusion, and it is your arrogance in presuming his right, not your vindictiveness itself, that God will punish if you judge others. There are intermediate positions that feel like you are forgiven because you are forgiving, but they are not very stable logically. (I am not really a Christian any more. So I am judging this by criteria an insider might not apply.)

Edit -- context:

That last fact makes it look silly that I answered the question. So I feel I need to defend myself against those who closed the first version...

I do have a context for interpreting Christianity in a way that is philosophical and not religious. I accept George Pixley's interpretation of Judaism as our oldest recorded attempt to build a large-scale fully-binding social contract not negotiated with a monarch or ruling family. (God eventually gave the Jews a king, but only several generations after the contract that limited his prerogatives was clear. That he then broke it twenty different ways does not matter, because it survived his dynasty anyway. No one else seems to have done that, in that order.)

Then Christianity is a more sophisticated philosophical revival of that basic proposition that allows for greater freedom and continuing revision on the basis of presumed, and not compelled cooperation with the process. Jesus's words matter because his motives are uniquely in tune with the original enterprise. And stable Christian sub-traditions are compelling to the degree they build interpretations of his words.

  • 3
    Very much this. The Christian view is generally that no action can earn or prevent forgiveness because it is simply a gift, and that humans should therefore forgive as freely. Paragraph 4 hits the mark with great precision.
    – Magus
    Oct 30, 2014 at 15:11
  • I recall reading that there was a Greek tradition of forgiving debts. Nov 1, 2014 at 4:21
  • Dao De Jing also says about forgiving debts.
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 4, 2015 at 12:10

As ChrisW states, in the English version it's "Trespasses" not "Debts" so it seems it's more about offence than actual debt.

I think there's a possible ambiguity of "Forgive" here - it could be open to interpretation.

To Forgive someone isn't necessarily the same as just ignoring their crime/offence against you. It's to allow them to redeem themselves in your eyes. That is: don't hold a grudge.

So if a corrupt businessman steals millions from people, the notion of forgiving could involve a punishment (eg jail sentence) but also forgiveness (they face the consequences of their actions, but are allowed back into society after jail).

The punishment part is going to deter corruption, but the victim forgiving the offender allows for love (in a christian way) to prevail.

In the prayer, it appears to mean that by showing compassion (there is good in everyone), you will receive compassion from God - but that still allows for punishment of crime/offence.

Have to bear in mind that any written language is open to interpretation, even if it is intended as the word of God.

  • 1
    It's worth noting that different translations have translated this variously as "trespasses", "sins", "debts" hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/87/…
    – wax eagle
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:51
  • Indeedy. We had to learn it verbatim in assembly at school - there wasn't any acknowledgement that it might be different in other regions or languages so this was a surprise for me today. Happy to be learning ! Oct 30, 2014 at 15:50
  • Under Roman and Jewish civil law (i.e., not criminal law), "offence" and "debt" might mean the same thing: because if someone hurts you or damages your property then they owe you compensation.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:43
  • lol sounds like they invented personal claim legislation. That makes a lot of sense out of the different terms, thanks Oct 30, 2014 at 17:05
  • Personal claim legislation is at least a millennium older than the Romans! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi
    – ChrisW
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:20

Christianity has often been promoted by oppressors, who perceive it as promoting meekness and compliance. However, there is a radical subversiveness to Christianity which has also made it the foundation of many movements promoting the interests of the poor and oppressed --for instance the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960's or the social justice gospel movement in South America.

The Lord's Prayer does indeed promote universal forgiveness. However forgiving your oppressors is not the same as complying with their oppression --and refusing to forgive your oppressors is not the same as effective resistance.


In a way it is. Bear in mind that Jesus lived and taught in a country that was occupied. A lot of people hoped that the Messiah would be the one to do something about it. But as it turned out Jesus rejected that idea by which he alienate quite a lot of people. Once he was asked how he feels about the taxes the Romans were collecting - basically his answer was: "That is no concern of God. If some material Caesar wants to collect some metal disks, well just give it to him. The only thing that matters is your relation to God, who is your true and only lord."

Now at that time, the Roman Empire was an unchallenged global power and the Israel of that time was in no position to chase the Romans out of the country. So while one might think of this position as evil, it also offers hope in a hopeless situation: "There are bigger things at stake here! There is a greater, mightier Lord in town than that puny Caesar. And if he likes you, you will not get a ludicrous aqueduct as a reward but eternal happiness."

As the oppressor you might think of this as convenient (and in fact the romans declared Christianity some 300 years later the state religion). But as a young, successful oppressor, you will always find a way to pacify the people. Be it bread and circuses, be it propaganda, be it constant surveillance, violent intimidation, the united struggle against an imaginary enemy, be it tittytainment... You don't exactly depend on utilizing a religion, though that works too (and in fact some 1600 years ahead Italian went fascist [not really a great step in the right direction, if you ask me]).

Tl;dr It is favourable for oppressors, but it was well meant counsel.

  • 3
    Actually, an aqueduct is a pretty good reward when you live in a desert... Oct 30, 2014 at 10:38
  • @DavidRicherby An aqueduct is a good thing everywhere! But if you were given the choice: Aqueduct or eternal happiness - what would you choose? I guess most people like eternal happiness better, because if an aqueduct makes you happy, eternal happiness would include an aqueduct. Plus lavish feasts. Plus no hangover. Plus eternal health. Plus all your friends and family. I for sure would go for eternal happiness!
    – Einer
    Oct 30, 2014 at 10:47
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    @DavidRicherby My dad used to show the What have the romans ever done for us? skit to his Roman History class: aqueducts, sanitation, roads, education, medicine, wine, baths, public order ("face it, they're the only ones who could in a place like this!" general laughter), irrigation, and peace.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 30, 2014 at 11:40
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    @Einer Spending an eternity with my family? I think you're either underestimating eternity or you have a different idea of happiness than I do ;-)
    – Xuntar
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:06
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    @DavidRicherby Fair enough. The reason I chose this adjective was purely rhetorical, and I did not want to propose an historic theory on how valuable water was to people in the desert. And the aqueduct I chose because I thought it was funny (I thought of Monty Python too, while writing it). Then I had the problem of making an aqueduct sound shabby. So I called it ludicrous.
    – Einer
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:08

In Latin the word is debita ("debt").

In English it's "our trespasses", in French it's "nos offenses".

So I think it's "forgive those who offend against us: those who aggress us".

In other words I think it's a continuation of pacifist philosophy i.e. Turning the other cheek.

As for whether that's colonialism, a principle of non-violence apparently worked for the Mahatma Gandhi ... and for Poland.

I suggest that it is not the Lord's Prayer that increases corruption: but rather, whether or how you learn it.

  • That very page points out a very functional, less pacifist interpretation of 'turning the other cheek'. The point is using honor to make people question themselves. The theory is that in traditional terms, if you make a man hit you on your left cheek, he has rejected your worth as a potential peer. So if he is going to insult you, make him really insult you, accept no half-measures regarding your worth. I think that is more in line with Gandhi, as well.
    – user9166
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:11
  • I can't see the Jesus who whipped men for selling things inside the temple as an outright pacifist, or even a Gandhi-type. So the point cannot be "don't hit back" or even "don't use violence" (he wasn't sorry.) It is more like "only fight for principle, not just out of competition."
    – user9166
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:23
  • @jobermark There's also "sell everything you have and give it to the poor". The incident in the temple might have been, I don't know, to do with the "greatest commandment" (i.e. loving thy God with all thy heart).
    – ChrisW
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:27
  • Still, not pacifism. Sharing everything can still require fighting outsiders who will not let up.
    – user9166
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:28
  • @jobermark I suspect it's a matter of communion or community. It's said that the problem with sin is that sin distances sinners from God.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 30, 2014 at 17:31

First and foremost, the question of going to Hell is answered in Romans 10:9

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."

If you have believed in your heart and confessed the Lord Jesus as your savior, nothing can keep you from your salvation, because at that point, the promise of salvation is complete -- your sins having been forgiven; not by your righteousness, but by the righteousness of Jesus who redeemed you from the wages of sin through His death.

Your unforgiveness of another does not trump Jesus' perfect sacrifice. In fact, His sacrifice paid the penalty for your sin of unforgiveness.

However! While confessing the Lord Jesus Christ as savior and believing in your heart that God has raised him from the dead does guarantee your salvation, it does not absolve you from your obligation to live a Christ-like lifestyle -- presenting yourself a living sacrifice -- that through your actions, charity and forgiveness, others may be drawn by your witness to the light of truth, and find their salvation in Jesus Christ.

  • Greetings, welcome to philosophy.se. This answer seems more like a comment on the theological interpretation the OP is making in the question...
    – virmaior
    Oct 30, 2014 at 23:40
  • 2
    @virmaior If the OP is making a valid theological interpretation for discussion, why is responding to that problematic? Surely either both are off-topic or both are on-topic?
    – AndrewC
    Oct 31, 2014 at 0:52
  • 1
    Virmaior is right depending on what the OP intended the focus of the question to be. If the question is about the validity of the conclusion reached, then this answer is invalid in that it does not address that. If it's about the ethics of such a conclusion (assuming the conclusion is true), then it's only tangentially on-topic because while it doesn't address the specific conclusion (is THAT particular statement evil counsel) but the overall concept of who is hell-bound and who is not.
    – stoicfury
    Nov 1, 2014 at 0:46
  • Why quote Romans? Romans is not the word of Jesus. Why not quote what Jesus said what will get you salvation? Read Matthew Ch. 25, 31-46 and Matthew Ch.5, 3-12. Confessing Jesus doesn't give you a free pass. Nov 1, 2014 at 5:03
  • Paul is interpreting Jesus death (which would be a weird topic on which to quote Jesus, no? Though it would clear up some ambiguity...) He is trying do so in a way consistent with the line of the prayer. Orthodoxy weighs on whether this is colonialist or not. If it goes back to Romans, and is not some later Catholic interpolation, it is likely part of the original community's thinking, which was, if anything escaping Roman colonialism. So it is much less likely to be inherently colonialist.
    – user9166
    Nov 1, 2014 at 15:29

No, the Lord's Prayer does no increase corruption.

Although it is possible for a would be "evil doer" to think that he could get away with doing evil, because anybody he offends/injures has to forgive him (and thereby being saved), he would be wrong in thinking so. Even if every person forgives him, there is still the society that would not! Also, there is the reality that not all the persons he "injured,"would in fact, forgive him (therefore not saved).

Although " forgiving others, would be "nice," it is not a requirement for salvation. Therefore the Lord's Prayer is not an incentive for corruption.

  • You are so naïve! Doesn't society forgive him? So many billionaire thieves have been forgiven! Let's just take the example of industries who make products already banned in many developed countries (for toxicity, usually), still selling those products in many underdeveloped countries... when are they going to jail?
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 22, 2014 at 5:03
  • I still think that it is an incentive to corruption, since I see the people accepting corruption and more corruption over generations!! And I see that political/financial corruption is more tolerated in the West (mostly christian) than in countries like China and Japan.
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 22, 2014 at 5:06
  • I may be naive, but society (everybody else), does not forgive him. Maybe people in the judicial system or government might forgive him, but not everybody else in his society. Besides, being forgiven and being saved (not going to hell) are not the same!
    – Guill
    Aug 25, 2015 at 7:47
  • Living with, and tolerating corruption, does not mean that people accept corruption!
    – Guill
    Aug 25, 2015 at 7:50
  • What's the difference between being forgiven and being "saved"? What's the difference between tolerate and accept? And how do you explain that only in some Eastern countries politicians comite suicide when caught in the practice of corruption?
    – Rodrigo
    Aug 25, 2015 at 14:46

To the contrary, this message leads to decreased corruption. The first step towards humanity is to take an honest accounting of oneself and recognize one's own sin (Genesis?). An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Forgiveness leads to a forgiving world; condemning leads to a condemned world.

"on earth as it is in Heaven."

  • It depends on what you call "corruption". An eye for an eye was the rule since the dawn of vision, some hundred million years ago. And the only animals selected for blindness were the cave dwellers. So your biblical myth is not so accurate.
    – Rodrigo
    Feb 26, 2016 at 1:12
  • And to say "humanity" depends on Genesis, I have to ask, how many different cultures you had contact with?
    – Rodrigo
    Feb 26, 2016 at 1:13
  • @DavidBlomstrom Great point. My initial thought/response is: every person commits multiple crimes per day [meets the elements of a criminal statute]. Aug 22, 2017 at 13:18

The denial of "Give us this day our daily bread" leads to Marxism, in which one ultimately trusts the State to provide his material needs, not God.

  • Like working for the bread instead of waiting for it to be "given"? Strange, most of the world is not christian, and it didn't lead to marxism everywhere, did it?
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 24, 2014 at 11:26
  • Can you say more about what you mean by this "denial?" Denial in the sense that that the daily bread comes from God? Or denial in the sense that we need bread? Why is it that the denial precedes Marxism? Seems like one could argue the other way around is easier to show (Marxism leads to denial of seeing our sustenance coming from God). Nov 24, 2014 at 22:19
  • @JamesKingsbery: Marxism leads to denial of seeing our sustenance coming from God. Aren't the principles of Marxism atheist?
    – Geremia
    Jun 1, 2015 at 1:28
  • @Rodrigo: Most of the world's countries belong to the UN, which is Marxist (and Masonic) (cf. also this).
    – Geremia
    Jun 1, 2015 at 1:33
  • Geremia, the world isn't only christians X marxists. You "forgot" to mention all the other mythologies, which comprise most of humankind, by the way.
    – Rodrigo
    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:47

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