He forgave all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13b-14).
I volunteered in a refugee camp as a college student one summer. Though I witnessed much pain and loss, God blessed me so much during that time. I enjoyed getting to know people in the camp, learning to crochet alongside some of the ladies, loving on their children, laughing at our blunders using limited language, and worshipping God amidst a rich diversity of cultures. My time there will forever be one of the greatest gifts of my life!
Every morning when I would enter the camp I was greeted with a feast for my senses. I quickly acclimated to these sights, smells and sounds from all over the world -- Farsi music, Turkish coffee, dolma, child's chatter in Serbo-Croatian. One afternoon upon entering, however, I caught whiff of a scent unfamiliar to me. I started following my nose down a path, and it led around the back of one of the bunkhouses. There I found the sacrifice of a sheep taking place. Several people were in the process of preparing this sheep for sacrifice. They busied themselves getting everything ready to make an offering. Everything had to be just right, a perfect sacrifice. I learned this was a routine, and this routine occurred a couple more times in the few weeks I worked there. They were doing the work to atone for sin. I was struck by this scene, not then, but years later.
Some cultures bear that weight regularly and are much more familiar with the gravity of spiritual indebtedness than I am. Though I have been to church my whole life and have an understanding of my need for Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, I admit I don't really get it. The concept of spiritual indebtedness is not one that I consider on a daily basis. Making sacrifices to clear the demands of my sin is not something that shows up on my “to-do” list. Carrying the load of sin and bearing grief from it just doesn’t occupy me.
The fact is, though, no matter if I get it or not, understand it just a little or a lot, having my indebtedness cancelled is a big deal. I have a list -- a mighty long one, an embarrassing one if I think about it -- of sins charged against me, of misdeeds which I need to make right. Things that I owe for. But that long list has been cancelled. Not partially, but totally. God cancelled my entire charge. I don't owe anything. All the times I have been self-centered or impatient, all my "white lies," the countless times I've misspoken and hurt others with careless words. My bouts of anger and pride, my river of complaints...all of them are cancelled, cleared. I don't need to worry about a single one.
I regularly walk in the freedom of this gift and am so grateful for being debt-free. Yet, I wonder: Would the joy of that freedom be multiplied if I thought more about the weight of my debt, the tremendous amount I would owe if it weren't for Jesus? I have never had to find the right animal, make an offering for every misdeed, or take great care to perform a sacrifice just right for it to be accepted. God's perfect sacrifice was made on my behalf. My charge is cancelled. Thanks be to God!
How can I reflect on sin and my spiritual debt in a healthy way? Lent could be a good time to consider having to carry our own sin. May we give thanks to God for the tremendous work done on our behalf in clearing all our debt!