Debt. That thing which keeps us under, keeps us from ever getting ahead, which is always hovering over, restricting life.
Forgiveness. That act which frees the giver, brings peace to a relationship and heart, which removes the burden of guilt. That act which is undeserved.
Debt is something no one likes. Forgiveness is something every one wants to receive, but few want to give. Is there a connection?
Matthew 18:23-35 King James Version (KJV)
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
I heard a sermon on this passage recently and it brought to me a new thought. What someone has done to us, in my case it was a broken promise, is like a debt they owe to us. When we forgive them, we are releasing them from paying that debt to us. When we withhold forgiveness we are essentially holding that debt over them until they pay it. Of course, I believe that when someone wrongs us they should make it right, but that is not the point. It is not our job to make them pay. If we were God and they our slave, then we would have the authority to demand it of them, but we are not God. We are equal with every other person on this earth. And not only that, we owe God a greater “debt” than we could ever pay, and yet if we repent He will not hold it against us.
Colossians 2:13-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Jesus paid for our debt of sin without being asked. He willingly released us from our debt even though we could in no way repay Him, even more because we could not repay Him. And He expects us to willingly forgive, no matter what. Even if they have not asked for forgiveness, it is our responsibility to extend forgiveness, to take the first step in repairing the relationship. If we don’t we are standing in judgment of them, acting in the place of God, in which case the Bible says that God will treat us in the same way by withholding forgiveness until we can earn it (which is never.)
You may say, “But why should they got off free without having to do anything? Shouldn’t they have to pay for the wrong they did?” The answer is that they should, and will, have to pay. Being forgiven settles the score between the two of you, but it does not affect their standing with God. It only affects your standing with God. Ultimately, whatever a person does to another is also a violation against God, always. So they not only have to deal with others but also with God. God promises to take care of every wrong done. He is a God of justice. That is His job. Our job is to forgive, to do our part in keeping peace in our hearts and relationships. We don’t have to, and shouldn’t try, to make them pay. Trust me, He can do it a lot more affectively than we can.
So what debt are you holding over someone? Isn’t it time you let it go?