There was a time in America (and is still in effect in some countries around the world), where people who owed money were placed in forced servitude to work off their debt. These individuals who owed money, would be “rented out” to others to perform all kinds of work often cruel and dehumanizing work…even prostitution.
“The owners” of these “indentured” servants, would make lots of money by renting out these servants until they had paid their debts and could be released. The only problem is, that while they would be “paying off” their debts, their board and keep would accrue and they would remain in servitude for the rest of their lives.
This would continue until the servant either, died, ran away (at which time they would have a warrant sworn out for their arrest and they would either be recaptured or put to death) or, in some absolutely miraculous case, someone would step up and pay their debt and set them free.
The word “indenture” meant a contract binding one person to work for another for a given period of time. The word is synonymous with the words “pit” or “hole” or depression. In other words, to be an indentured servant was to be placed in a financial hole, where they would be trapped and not be able to get out of it until the person they owed let them out…or, as often happened until they died.
That kind of cruelty is illegal in our country and in many countries around the world. But I wonder if we understand how many of us are still slave owners?
I made a lot of mistakes in my past before I rededicated my life to Jesus. Even as a Christian I made a lot of really bad decisions and it reflected badly on Jesus and on myself. You see, it’s easy to forget after having been completely forgiven of our sins, how we also have to be willing to forgive others of their sins.
This is the scripture in The Lord’s Prayer that is one of the most powerful requests we can make to the Lord…“Give us this day, our daily bread…AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS (s we forgive OUR DEBTORS”
These debts could be the financial kind, and most likely, back in the days of Jesus, they were financial. But these days, most likely, the debts other people owe us are the offenses they have committed against us.
I remember going to a class reunion quite a few years ago. I hadn’t been to a class reunion since I graduated high school and it had been impractical because I had lived in South America and across the country, so it wasn’t really a possibility in the first 20 years. But the time came at the 25th class reunion that I was in a position to go to a reunion. I was; like all people I suppose, nervous because we all want to be well remembered and of course look “exactly like we did in High School” which might be possible for some people but certainly not for me. I was also nervous because I was not proud of my behavior in High School and I made it a point to make the rounds at the reunion and ask forgiveness of people when I got there.
Many of my old friends laughed and said, “there’s nothing to forgive…we only have good memories of you!” But there was one person…who, when I spoke with them, they seethed with anger. “You were such a jerk to me!!!” “I have hated you over these past 25 years!” I was shocked and asked forgiveness explaining I was such an insecure person in those days. I extended my hand to shake and even asked if there was anything I could do to make restitution, but the person said, “I will never forgive you…what has been done can never be made right.”
I recall that later that evening, I saw the person speaking with others, looking in my direction relating my past offenses to them. It didn’t matter that I had asked forgiveness, the person was going to seek to remind everyone of my past sin against them and to throw wood on the fire to stir up bad feelings against me. It sounds almost like a scene out of a movie, doesn’t it? With all of the good that came out of that night, the one thing that soured it for me was that this individual wanted me to be their prisoner for life…no reprieve, no parole…for me, it was life in prison. And at least up to this day, in that person’s mind, that is where I remain…life in her prison of hatred.
In very real terms, she is my slave owner. I will not comply with her contract of indentured servitude, but in her mind at least, I will rot in prison. Okay…so here is how you and I keep people in slavery.
Any time you or I seek to remind another person how much they have hurt us, or anytime we try to bring up a past sin committed against us, even as we mouth the words, “Oh, I have already forgiven you…”, even without knowing it, we are trying to place someone in a debtors prison. You may say to me, “Well, that is NOT my heart…I would NEVER try to keep someone chained to their past. I want to remind you of something a dear friend once reminded me,
“The heart is more deceitful than anything. It is incurable— who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 International Standard Version
None of us know our own hearts. Even our best of intentions can be draped in layers of hurt from past offenses and when this is the case, our verbalizing them to the person who hurt us is a lash to the back of our secret slaves. This is why Jesus told us when praying to Him for our daily needs that we need to ask forgiveness of our own sins in the same way we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
God isn’t saying that what they did to you wasn’t wrong… God isn’t telling you to bury the hurt and “get over it!” No…God wants to heal our hearts. He wants to expose the wounds we carry on the inside and let him disinfect them and roll them out so they can be healed.
“Why do you want more beatings? Why do you keep rebelling? Your head has a massive wound, and your whole heart is afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and festering sores not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.…”
Sometimes, when we feel the most healthy, we neglect the fact that we are holding something against another person. In our hearts we have slammed the prison door and they are not going to get out of prison! When we harbor bitterness or….even less dramatic than that…anytime a person comes across your mind and your first thought about them is the hurt they caused you, there is still a splinter under your soul and it will cause infection. The longer it stays there, long more it will grow.
You’ve heard the old saying, but it bears repeating, “Holding unforgiveness in your heart against another person, is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It doesn’t harm the other person…it harms you.
What DOES harm other people is when you see them casually and smile and say, “Hi, How are you? Oh it’s so good to see you! “Wasn’t that funny years ago when you embarrassed me in front of all our other friends?” “Oh…that was SO funny…well, ta ta, have to run!” then you might add, “Praise the Lord!” big smile…you walk away feeling better, they feel someone just peed on their shoes.
There is a direct relationship with letting go of offenses and being set free from your own prison of condemnation and oppression. When we forgive, God forgives…when we hold onto the sins of others, we are thrown into a prison of torment until we have released the other person. In Luke 7:36-50 is the parable of the Two Debtors.
“This familiar story is a contrast between traditional religion and a personal, intimate relationship with God through Jesus. It’s one that a Pharisee was confronted with but not able to comprehend. As with all parables, the meaning is hidden from those who do not have the Spirit to reveal the deeper message.
Obviously, Jesus paid the debt for all of our sins at the cross. But if there was a scale that could be used to measure the number or magnitude of sins that you committed during your life –how would you compare with other people? It’s crucial to understanding this parable.
“ Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”“Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 1
Jesus doesn’t hold your past against you, my friend. If you have come in humility and confessed your sins and asked Him to forgive you, God casts your sin into the lake of forgetfulness and puts up a “no Fishing” sign. You are not allowed to go try to fish those memories out of that lake and HE will never remember them again.
“Let’s go back to the question posed at the start. Had Jesus not forgiven all of your sins already, where would you rank on the scale of needing forgiveness? You might think it’s not worth considering since He did indeed pay the entire debt. But the fact of the matter is that the rank that you assign for yourself determines the amount that you love Him. Paul measured himself and openly told the whole world what his score was.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
When Paul said “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. . .” he was not trying to get us to agree that he was truly the worst. Rather, he wants each and every one of us to closely examine the depths of our need for a savior. Knowing your own thoughts and attitudes that flow through your mind all day long, are you really a basically good person? Or would you come to the same conclusion that Paul did in Romans chapter 7?
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
Here is the passage from Revelation with a description of the church that is neither hot nor cold. It emphasizes the magnitude of how we should view our need –and adjust our “score” on that imaginary debt scale.
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:17-20)
Hopefully, between these two Scriptures, you are able to see yourself as Paul saw himself –” the worst of all sinners.” In doing so, your relationship with Jesus will grow in meaning and purpose for your life.
The Scriptures go on to explain the change that takes place through the new identity we receive by being “in Christ” –where we are rich, having no stain of sin, able to clearly see all that He has provided.
By the way –should you be interested in the symbolism in the Luke passage– the kiss is about seeking acceptance; tears are of saltwater implying an impending death; a woman’s hair is her glory, her best; and anointing is showing respect for someone who we consider great. The standard way of showing respect in those days would have been by pouring oil downward onto the most respectable part of a person –from our supposedly high position.
The woman recognized Jesus as being supremely important. By anointing His feet; she was looking up from her lowly position. She was seeking His acceptance –knowing that her very best was less than His least. From the perspective of the story of two debtors, the woman knew the enormity of her debt and so she loved Jesus greatly.
We should all recognize ourselves –our flesh– has not changed even after salvation. It will not improve. Although our actions might appear better as Christians, our inner thoughts and attitudes –that’s where our flesh is– remains unchanged and destined for death. And its war with our spirit wages on. The point of this is that we can grow in our love for Him –that personal relationship– by knowing the enormity of the debt He canceled for us.” 2
Don’t be a slave owner any longer…Jesus has turned “slave” into “salve” he places it on our wounded souls so we will no longer have a need to hold the sins of others over their heads. I for one…am eternally grateful for that!