There is both good and bad in the fact that the cross has become a very familiar sight in our world. We see it everywhere we turn from buildings to jewelry. The message of the cross is so simple a child can understand, yet it is so rich that even if we were to spend every waking moment of our entire lives studying it we would fail to mine all the riches to be found there. In this series we will seek to mine some of those riches and spark a passion in each of us to pray as the hymn writer wrote “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”
I recently came across a Spanish story of the relationship between a father and son which became so estranged that the teenage son ended up running away from home. Realizing the consequences of his stubbornness the father quickly had a change of heart and began a journey in search of his estranged son. The father searched for several weeks with little success so he decided to run an ad in the local newspaper. The ad read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you, your father.” The next morning the father showed up at the newspaper office shortly before noon and to his surprise, there waiting for him in front of the office were eight hundred ‘Pacos,’ standing there, all of them seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers.
The reality brought out through this story is that we all want and need forgiveness in our lives. Though our desire for forgiveness may vary from situation to situation and some of us may have effectively desensitized ourselves to our drive for forgiveness through resisting it, this built in mechanism still resides within all of us. This innate drive to seek forgiveness is further confirmed by our decisions to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged or hurt us or someone we love. Withholding forgiveness is like our way of disabling the individual who has been so insensitive to us, and seeking to keep them in a position of indebtedness to us until such a time as we determine that the price has been paid for the pain they have inflicted.
I was recently speaking to some friends of mine who work in the area of finance and banking. I asked them what they believed was the average amount of credit card debt for an American. I figured they would say something like eight thousand dollars, but I was shocked when they shared that it was probably closer to the neighborhood of fifteen thousand. That figure does not include mortgages and cars! Some of you may be higher than this average and some of you may be lower but just imagine if the every lending company you are indebted to called you this week and released you from all further payments on your debt. I’m talking mortgage, car loans, boat loans, second mortgages, third mortgages, credit cards, department store cards, etcetera, etcetera. There is not one of us who would refuse such an offer though we may ask to see the fine print and ask what the catch is.
Forgiveness between individuals is much like the financial debt we have incurred. Each time we pain someone we sustain a moral debt to them. As we seek to pay back this debt the individual from whom we have incurred the debt makes the determination at what interest rate the debt will be paid back. Our desire is that forgiveness would be granted with just a simple “I’m sorry,” and the debt would be cancelled, though just as with our financial debt, forgiveness usually requires more than just a simple, “I’m sorry.”
Jonathan Edwards, a preacher who was central to the Great Awakening of the 18th century described it this way, “Any sin is more or less heinous depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we have offended. Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence.” Our debts against God carry a humanly immeasurable interest rate, thus making the debt humanly un-payable. No amount of saying, “I’m sorry,” no amount of good deeds or kindness can ever cover the debt even of just one thought that is contrary to the holy character of God. That is what makes God’s offer of forgiveness so absolutely amazing. Only He could take the necessary steps to guarantee our forgiveness and rather than dangle that fact over us like a vindictive and vengeful God, He followed through for us at great personal price to Himself. Our moral debt against God requires a morally perfect sacrifice, and the only morally perfect sacrifice was God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Forgiving our moral and spiritual debt against God cost God His one and only Son and what does it cost us, absolutely nothing. It is highly likely that your bank won’t call today and cancel all your financial debt but it is absolutely certain that God is calling today offering full forgiveness of all your moral and spiritual debt to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. No fine print, no catch just a free gift of a debt cancelled. All you have to do is accept it.