Colossians 2:13-14 “God made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Debts are all about the past. A month ago, I paid my down payment on a house. I signed the banker’s paperwork, and from that moment I was in debt. What’s done is done. Until the day when I am free, my present and my future are all about paying off the past.

This isn’t just about finances; it’s true across the board. The debts you’ve incurred against people whom you have hurt, and the ones they’ve incurred against you are the debts that you live with.

Debts are all about the past, and the past can’t be changed.

The Christian also sees this with a spiritual lens. Your debts not only stand against people that you’ve hurt; they also stand against God. Every person you have hurt their body, hurts God as well. Any woman hurt by your lustful glance is a devaluing of God as well. Every time you explain your neighbor’s reputation in a way that’s less than kind, you are sinning against the God who created you.

Here’s where the Gospel comes in. Forgiveness is a present reality that looks to the future.

The image of debt and forgiveness informs our spiritual reality. You can’t just blot out a number on a page and tell people that your debts are paid. We know that I couldn’t just go into the bank and change what I owe on my house. No, the way to cancel our debts was to pay it down to the last cent. If that past is erased, it’s because someone paid every last cent you owed.

Hear the words of Paul: “You who were dead in your trespasses are alive in Christ, since he has forgiven our sins.” How? By canceling the debt of our sin. By nailing it to the cross. By dying for our inadequacies and faults. He forgives it by paying for every last cent, and he does even more than that. He pays for the sin of the whole world, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. He looks into your very soul and says, “I bought forgiveness for you, dollar and cent, one hundred percent.” In Jesus, you are worthy because Jesus nailed all your sins to the cross.

And forgiveness looks to the future. It looks toward the dawning of a new day, the turning of a new corner, to the newness of life that we have in Jesus. It turns from the failings of the past to consider what the future will be like. Forgiveness pays our debt with the suffering of God, so that Jesus can say to you what he says to the woman of John 7, “Go and sin no more.”

Paul Muther is associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Janesville.

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