Debt. Everyone has it. Monetarily, or we are indebted due to someone’s kindness. We often have a sense we need to “pay it back ” or “pay it forward”. In the case of Mercy – our debt is paid in full. Mercy takes away what we deserve and Grace gives us what we don’t deserve based on the love of Jesus.
In relationships, this dynamic can change. It is easy to demand “payback” for the debt we believe people owe us. This can be a stranglehold on the life of relationships – choking out the life-sustaining oxygen.
Love pays the debt
Here is an illustration from the book of Philemon that illustrates Romans 8:33 “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.”
He has value! These words caught Onesimus attention as he stretched to hear more of the conversation between the Apostle Paul and Philemon. “Restore him, and receive him as you would me, all that he has done, forgive and I will replenish all your losses.” Philemon was taken back at these words, the Apostle Paul expressed a love that was impractical.
“He is mine, he has a debt to repay me! What he did was wrong! Running away has only increased his debt and extended his punishment,” Philemon was indignant. “Remember where I found you? Helpless and lost seeking a second chance. Starving and looking for shelter you had stolen some bread and you were caught, judgment was imminent – but I stood in your place, I paid your penalty and made you mine; Do you remember?” Philemon began to breath slower, his anger subsided. He remembered where he had come from, it was a humiliating place. “For Love’s Sake let him go, release him as an offering to the Lord.” Philemon nodded and embraced Paul, he owed this man his life.
Timidly, Onesimus moved towards Philemon his master. Philemon looked squarely at Onesimus and his countenance was made soft from the impact of the Apostle Paul’s words – “You are the Lord’s free man, your debt to me is paid in full.”
The apostle Paul shares a progressive thought about debt; In Romans 13:8 “Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Our first obligation is to love. Often life and its inconsistencies can obstruct this order, typically we magnify the failure and what is owed first.
A way to keep this order is though the 101% principal. John Maxwell explains that we search for the 1% that is healthy and we focus 100% of our attention there – then the health grows! This is forward-thinking! Often, we can help the individual magnify the healthy aspects rather than focusing on the majority that is wrong. Often, we want God to follow our plan when He is leading us into uncharted territory.
Here are a few ways to give hope:
- Communicate the process is always unfolding
- Magnify what God is doing
- Bring value to the journey not only the destination.
- Amplify the faithfulness of God in your own life.
We have been ransomed, rescued and redeemed from so much – don’t hold people hostage with your own expectations. Be a divine liberator!
Jason is a graduate from Maryland Bible College and Seminary, and presently he leads the Pastoral Care Team of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. Since age 16, Jason has been involved with mission work among the former Soviet-Bloc countries in Eastern Europe, as well as in Asia, and in the United States. While living in Ukraine, he helped church plant three new churches that continue to thrive today under trained nationals. He has also written five books and has his own podcast (tinyurl.com/IRpodcast)