“What is it, Lord?”
There’s been this battle off and on over the years. Sometimes it seems gone, then it wells up, wild again, snagging my stability and dragging me down into the mire to wallow … then drown in my own self-pity. And it’s ugly.
You think I’m exaggerating? That’s how it feels, right? When something slide-tackles us we go from sure-footed faith to flat on our backs in one fell swoop.
It was this that I was hashing out with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His perspective, my sin, what the root was–you know, all that ugly heart stuff that has to be worked out.
His answer: Burn the IOU.
Oh … that.
Just the day before I had read Matthew 18. Here Jesus tells the story of the master who forgives his servant a massive debt, equal in today’s wages to about eight million dollars. That’s a big debt! So after this debtor has been forgiven this insane amount, he goes and finds someone who owes him a pittance (relative to the other debt it’d be equivalent to about thirteen-thousand dollars) and …
… seizing him, he began to choke him saying, “Pay what you owe.” (Matthew 18:28)
This picture is etched in my mind whenever I think about forgiveness. Whenever we hold a grudge against someone, it’s like we are seizing them and choking them, saying with our hearts and attitudes, “Pay what you owe!”
Whenever we hold on to unforgiveness, we are that man, seizing and choking those around us because we can’t just let it go.
Forgiveness burns the IOU.
Whatever it is that someone owes you, forgiveness takes their IOU and sets it on fire. Burns it. Destroys it. Lets the person go free.
But here’s the thing, sometimes we’re the ones who wrote the IOU.
What I mean is, sometimes that person doesn’t even know they are “indebted” to us. So often we have expectations of others, what they “should” give us, what we expect from them, what we want from them, and then when they inevitably fail us and don’t deliver the goods that we expected (love, acceptance, kindness) we write ourselves an IOU and clutch it, white-knuckled, holding onto that grimy, tattered IOU because we think they owe us that love, that acceptance, the kindness.
The picture isn’t pretty, is it? I don’t want to go through life clutching onto an old ratty, wadded up IOU, inwardly demanding that person pay me my due.
BURN THE IOU.
As long as I think that another person owes me acceptance and love, I’ll be miserably clutching that IOU.
But freedom comes when we burn it, release the debt, let that person free and we will find …
That we are free as well!
Jesus says some wild things about forgiveness, friends. We do well to take them to heart and consider any way we are clutching old IOUs. Chances are, we wrote them ourselves.
Jesus clutches no IOUs.He paid our debt with His blood when He said, “It is finished.” Paid in full. More than eight-million dollars, a lifetime of debt, more than could ever be paid. He did this for us.
I don’t need to seize, choke, demand. I can forgive, let go …
And burn the IOU.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15).