“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” Matthew 18:23 (NIV)
How many of you are in debt? Student loans, car payments, mortgages, credit card bills, etc. Or perhaps you are totally debt-free! (Dave Ramsey would be proud). That would feel pretty good wouldn’t it? To be totally free of debt? Despite how much money you do or do not owe the bank, I’m afraid that we are all in debt in one way or another. (Remember that one favor you promised your friend? Yeah, they haven’t forgotten. You might want to get on that).
Monetary and social debt is something that we can tangibly understand. Because of that, it is actually a good point of reference when we think about salvation. You know when you get a statement in the mail that says, “this is how much you owe, and this is why”? Romans 3:23 does that for us regarding our debt to Christ: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are indebted to Christ because of our sins, and we–by our own means–have no way of paying it off. This is where Jesus comes in.
But wait, hold on!–why are we in debt in the first place? If God really loves us and is planning on forgiving our sins through Jesus anyways, can’t he just save some time and agony and cut us some slack? While this seems like a reasonable suggestion, no–God cannot.
There are some humanly impossible contradictions–like how Starbursts are somehow both solid AND juicy like a liquid?? In the same way, it’s impossible for humans to be simultaneously just and merciful. God, on the other hand, is perfectly both: “For I, the LORD, love justice” (Isaiah 61:8) & “delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18). Because God is perfectly just, it’s impossible for Him to shrug his shoulders and say “eh, whatever, your debts are forgiven.” But, because God delights to show mercy, it is in His perfect character to maintain justice while still offering forgiveness. This beautiful contradiction is what I am now dubbing the “Jesus loophole.”
In God’s perfect justice, He cannot “forgive” our debt. God does not “look the other way” at our sins. There is still a price to be paid for falling short of the glory of God. Yet, our Father knows that we, by ourselves, are not capable of crawling out of the hole we have dug ourselves into, so He sends His son to bail us out. (John 3:16-18).
God extends grace to us through His merciful gift of Jesus Christ even while we are stuck in the bottom of a self-dug, sinful pit. We have fallen short, we have fallen into a mess that we made ourselves. In doing so we have transgressed against our perfect God and are indebted to him in ways we cannot pay. Because God is just, the debt must be paid. Because God is merciful, he sends his son to pay the price for us (Ephesians 2:4-5).
As C.S. Lewis summarized in Mere Christianity, “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.” This fresh start is continually offered to you, no matter what situation you find yourself in (or how many times you find yourself there). What accounts do you have that need to be settled up with the King? He is extending you mercy and opportunity to start fresh, take it!
How have you sinned and fallen short of the glory of God this week?
How have you seen God extend his mercy throughout your life?
Have you taken His offer to start fresh? If yes, how? If no, why not?
By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI