Monday, March 8 2021 - 2:06 PM
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Collecting Debt

In the teachings of Paul the apostle, it is suggested that we watch ourselves. I think his way of saying it was “walk circumspectly.” And for as stuffy as that may sound, all it means is we really owe it to ourselves to notice where we are, where we’ve come from, and just exactly where we are going. Yes, and then ask ourselves why.

What this wonderful little suggestion does is turn the wanderer into a student and life into education. It’s really fantastic. No more riding through the same rough terrain again and again and again. In fact, I think his words hark back to when God first looked over the created human family and promised that we’d have mastery over our lives. This was the road back to mastery.

True Condition of Forgiveness

One huge application of this suggestion in my life has been around Jesus’ teaching on debt collecting. When Jesus prayed the Lord’s Prayer, He forgave. Yes, and this was great. I’d been taught this from the cradle. What I hadn’t noticed, though, was something in His forgiveness request that unleashed clarity all over my true condition of forgivingness.

It was that He had called people who needed my forgiveness, my debtors. This was big and huge. This meant that anyone who had hurt me in any way had actually racked up debt against me in the sight of the Universe. I was owed. I didn’t need to feel bad about feeling bad. The debt was real. I had lost something.

Clarity Shining Through

And here is where the clarity came shining through. When I didn’t forgive, then I would still be owed something. I would automatically begin to pursue payback, you know, to collect on that debt. Yes, you hurt me, so I needed to hurt you back somehow, and then we would be even, right? Exactly. Not only that, until that debt was made right, I would need to always be on the lookout for getting back what had been lost—a truly stressful way to live.

This probably unveils the motives behind most, if not all, of the destructive human behaviors we participate in. You damage my life somehow, so I need to make it right, so I damage back in my own way, yes, and then the score is at zero (or so it is thought), and I am back to normal (supposedly).

Tripping Over to Collect

In truth, if you were to collect on me for something I did to you, then in your act of collecting, you’d probably end up owing me. No wonder I want to lash out when someone responds poorly to my poor behavior!  Not only this, but then you’ve got to acknowledge those who were sitting in the bleachers who themselves felt violated for watching, and they too have a right to collect. And so it goes on and on, all of us tripping over each other to collect.

This understanding has revolutionized my life. Now, whenever I go to speak or do something unkind, especially more than once, I can rest assured my debt-collecting caution buzzer will go off inside my head. It’s really quite amazing. Gossiping? I’m collecting, check. Withholding kindness? Check. Avoiding someone? Check. Celebrating someone’s demise? Check.

There really is something to this. Think first of all those people you dislike. Why do you dislike them?  Yeah? Sometimes it’s just that they look, sound, or act like a person who owes us, and that’s enough for our collection tendencies to fly into action. You can’t think of a nice thing to say about your kid’s teacher or your in-laws or boss? I’d start sniffing around your history and look for a debt that you’re owed.

He Paid Our Debts

John, the apostle, said Jesus died for the personal debts of the whole wide world, and that’s why we can and must forgive. Basically, we give the debt to Jesus. He successfully collects it and drowns it in the bottom of the ocean. The perk then is that we get to carry on with our lives scot-free.

Remember, it was Jesus who choked out forgiveness to the mob who’d beat Him to a pulp and nailed him up on a thick post of wood. Not only that, but it was also Jesus who taught that those who don’t forgive, but instead collect, would wear that debt all over themselves and sink their own ship in the end because, well, debt kills.

So here’s for some circumspective walking. You see that weird little thing you’re doing to that person? Yes. Do they owe you? They must. And did it hurt? For sure. And are you trying to collect? Uh, well, yes, but not anymore!

Good, because I’ve heard it said that people who don’t forgive become resentful, and resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy A Different Debt | The Separation of Church and Hate

Clarissa Worley Sproul writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Clarissa Worley Sproul

Clarissa Worley Sproul

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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