1 Corinthians 10:6-13
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Even unbelievers know you can make friends by forgiving debt, by removing it. But we Christians often forget that. We hang on to debts. We do not forgive slights. We nurse grudges over hurts done to us. This should not be. For no man can serve two masters. Either you serve the one who forgives all, and thus in the joy of salvation you also forgive. OR you end up serving the one who encourages you to collect all the debts owed you. To serve a master is to be like your master. Serving Our Lord you will become a forgiver, a debt deleter. OR like Satan you will never let go. You will never forgive. And thus though you have been baptized you will never know the joy of your salvation and may even lose it.
Fortunately, you are here today. Here to receive holy Absolution. Here to have you debts forgiven. Here to be reminded of your Baptism where you were made a member of God’s royal family. Here to receive His Supper where you dine at the Kings table on the Kings finest riches. If you are nursing grudges, hanging on to debts owed you, unwilling to forgive, let them go! Come to His table and have your own debts of lovelessness forgiven and be accepted into His eternal dwelling.
For how has holding all those bills of debt been treating you? Have you collected on any of them? Has it given you joy? Increased your spiritual wealth and health? Has it improved your life? Or merely made you miserable? It is just and right for those debts to be paid by those who owe them to you. No one denies that. But is hanging on to them doing you or they any good? You are only robbing yourself. Let go. Forgive.
I know you have not the power to do that. But neither do you have the power to serve two masters. You are either dead in sin and unable to serve God. Or you are dead in sin, raised anew in Baptism and able to serve God. But either way you are dead. Are you going to live in death or in Christ who is your life?
According to our world Our Lord acts unjustly. He forgives debts. Your debts. He commends those who forgive the debts owed to them. And He increases the joy all around! For there is no joy in debt collection. There is only justice. But justice without mercy means death to the sinner. Therefore, it is empty. Joyless. It does not fix the wrongs others have done to you. It only increases sorrow all around. Making all miserable.
This is just logic. It is sensible. Pragmatic. It is wiser to forgive than live in bitterness. People in this world can figure that out. Why can’t Christians who have been forgiven ALL by their God & saviour figure out that forgiving debts is better? It wins friends and influences people.
Our Lord does not forgive just to win friends, to manipulate people, to get what He wants. He does it for the joy laid before Him of winning salvation for all people. It is a joy to Him not because all are convinced by Him. Not because all are saved. For some do not want Him or His salvation. People are not lining up at His door to receive from Him what He gives. No it is not a joy because of you and me. It is a joy because of His Father. Because it is His Father’s will to redeem all of sinful humanity, to be a gracious debt forgiver. It is His Father’s will that His Son be viewed by the world as an unjust manager of the Father’s wealth. It is the Father’s will that all of fallen creation be redeemed through His Son’s innocent death and to scatter that wealth willy-nilly like a bum who won the lottery and is on the bender of his life making friends everywhere while the money lasts.
For the bum the money will run out. The party will end. Good-time Charlie will be back to being Sad-sack Sally. But with our Lord there is no bottom. There is no end to His Father’s wealth. He keeps pouring and scattering and squandering it on debtors like you. There is only an end to how long debtors can get in on this free money! On the Last Day the party will not end but the doors to the party will be shut. Then the time of judgement will come for those outside the party. The debts will be called in. The scores will be settled. The debtors who wrote off their debts to the account of Jesus Christ will be commended for the shrewdness of their faith. They did not knuckle down and arrogantly try to work off their debt. They did not try to collect from all who owed them. They did not try in that way to be responsible, miserly and miserable citizens. No they took what was freely and—let’s be frank—unfairly given to them. In joy they paid it forward. They gave it out. They forgave it out. For there is always more forgiveness where that came from. So grab on now. Get your debts forgiven while the forgivings good!
It ain’t right. It isn’t just. It is not how our world works. But it is God’s way. He commends those who in mercy let themselves be defrauded by forgiving the sin debts others owe them. He does not take it out on their back sides. Instead, He paid their sins’ debts with His backside. A back torn, shredded by whips for our debts. A brow pierced for our wicked thoughts and attitudes. Hands and feet nailed to the wood for all the wicked things done by you and the evil places gone by you. A heart pierced and broken by your choosing other gods. A life poured out for all the meaningless things you have wasted your life on.
But that’s not the end. With this God-Man nailed to a cross what is broken and pierced and torn and killed is healed and raised for our justification so that we who are not right can be called right by Our Lord. So that we who do not forgive can be forgiven by Him. He who is God pays for your sins. The just for the unjust. So that the unjust are called just until that day when He commends you before all creation, before all souls who have ever lived, before the universe herself, and reveals that hidden under the rags of a broken-down sinner lays His glorious child. His heir to all He accomplished on that cross. On that day you will be clothed in garments of light. The same clothing He now wears in glory. The perfection of a resurrected body free of the ills and moral weakness that plague you here. Perfect in Him. Pleasing to Him. Without wrinkle or blemish or fault or sin or character defect. This is your destiny you unjust but shrewd in faith manager. He forgives. You forgive. God be praised.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON