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May 25, 2016

The One Debt We Can Never Repay


What would reconciliation on a daily basis look like? Between husband and wife? Between boss and employees? Between parents and children? Between Christian leaders and Christian people? Between Christians in every imaginable setting?

Most of us have struggled to reconcile with someone in the past – maybe even today. Perhaps you’ve wondered, “How can I really forgive that person who has wronged me? He or she owes me!”

One of the ways that the Bible shows us what reconciliation means is in insisting we learn to settle outstanding debts. This is very important, especially in situations where two Christians are involved in business and one feels the other has harmed them financially.

Reconciliation is not whitewashing the matter. Forgiveness says, “I will not hold you accountable.” But reconciliation goes beyond to say, “Whatever debts are between us are now ‘Paid in Full.’” In the case of a dispute, unless someone is prepared to stand up and say, “This debt is now cancelled,” the dispute between two people will never end.  Someone has to cancel debts.

Secondly, reconciliation with others is a reminder of our own unpaid debts to God.

In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story of a man who owed his master millions of dollars.  He could never repay the master, because it would take a thousand lifetimes to do so! As a result of this massive debt, the man and his family would be sold into a lifetime of slavery. It meant the end of everything good, decent and hopeful in his life.

These consequences were so staggering, so overwhelmingly terrifying, that he fell to his knees before his master. Losing all dignity, he simply begged, crying out for mercy. In desperation, this was all he could do.

But the master, in an act of uncommon, extraordinary, magnificent grace, cancelled his debt. I expect for this man, it would have been a moment of utter shock, leaving him speechless.

No sooner was the man with the cancelled debt out of his master’s presence when he found a man who owed him $100. So what did he do? He grabbed him by the throat and said, “Pay what you owe me!” The man cried out, “I don’t have the money. Have mercy on me.”

But instead of having mercy, he threw the man into debtors’ prison. When the gracious master heard about this, he was enraged with the servant he had forgiven, and threw him into a dungeon where he remained for the rest of his life.

And with that, Jesus said something that troubles me – even to this day: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you will not forgive your brother from the heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

Do you want to know the key to reconciliation? It is learning to forgive as Christ Himself forgave. You see, as I owe debts to people who have impacted my life for good, how much greater is the debt I owe God? Oh, I know we are not called upon to repay Him, because our debt has been cancelled on the cross – but that is just the point. This is what happened to us in Christ – he cancelled our debt before God!  Christ erased it! That’s how reconciliation happens!

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.


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