Summary: If our actions are debt, then thank God he’s our creditor!
Title: Paying off the Mortgage in God’s Economy
FCF: God wants our relationship to be predicated on forgiveness – He’s wiped the slate clean!
SO: I want the congregation to understand that our slate is clean, and so I’m going to have a sin burning ceremony at the end.
If you’ve ever sold a house, you have experienced a moment like no other. During the transaction, there comes a moment when you have sold your house, but you have not yet purchased the new one. For a few moments, you most likely have no debt whatsoever. If you were to run out of the closing office, you would be a free man. You would owe nobody. Your slate would be clean.
As Christians, however, that moment shouldn’t feel nearly as odd as it does, because you see, that is the feeling that our God desires we have with him every day. With him being God and we being mere mortals, you would expect that the normal state of affairs to strictly be a debt / debtor relationship. But that’s not what our God wants.
We’ve been looking at relationship with God for the last several weeks by examining that most precious incarnation of relationship – prayer. Specifically, we’ve been looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a model of that relationship.
You’ll remember we started by examining the fact that “Our Father” means he’s both our Daddy and our Holy God. You’ll remember that when we pray for his kingdom and his will to be done, that’s a dramatic declaration that we desire his will, even over ours. Even when we pray that God would “give us this day our daily bread” we were acknowledging his provision is superior to ours.
And, this morning, we come to the point in the prayer that is probably hardest to believe. When we pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we come to understand that our God, our God to whom everything is rightfully due, doesn’t choose to live in that sort of arrangement. You see, our God loves us. He doesn’t want to be the big landlord in the sky, the colossal cosmic cop collecting every centilla of action that is his right. No, our God forgives, and he wants us to live that way.
Trespasses or Debts?
Before we delve too deeply into the subject at hand, however, I want to clarify one point. I know whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer in English, everyone gets a little tentative at this point. If you’re not familiar with the church, you’re probably waiting to hear if this church says “trespasses” or “debts.” Well, let me clear it up for you a little bit.
Simply put, the better word is “debt,” even if the traditional one is trespass.
Let me read the scripture, and I’ll show you what’s going on:
“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses
Basically, what happened is this – when the Book of Common Prayer was first issued, they confused vs. 14 below with 12 above. In verse 14, the word really is “trespasses.” – a moral offence against the Almighty Me.
When they were translating this passage way back when, the point was really clear in verse 14 – it was a moral debt. It wasn’t so clear in verse 12, because there, Jesus talks about any old debt. In verse 12, it’s just any old debt. So, it being “clear” in one place and not so clear in another, somebody thought, “Hey, I’ll just edit Jesus and make him sound better.”
Well, sounds nice, but the problem is, you miss out on the force of what Jesus was actually saying. He was saying, “God has forgiven your debt. Go and do the same.”
You remember the parable of the man who was forgiven a huge debt, and then goes out and tries to beat the small debt out of someone who owes him? That’s the word Jesus was using. It was a debt. Just like that mortgage you want paid off, that’s the word Jesus is using. If you would have no debts, then forgive others theirs. If you want your slate to be clean, go ahead and forgive others. Owe no man. Just love them. Your relationship need not be exploitation, obligation, or domination. Just love them, freely.