We all worry about the debt this country has accumulated. It’s a wopping 16 plus trillion dollars. We worry about how we will pay this back. It’s on the mind of everyone paying attention to the election; the subject of both presidential candidates. Each has a plan to lower it. Now we may not agree with them. But, I genuinely think each will try to reduce the debt how they see fit. But it is massive. It will take much sacrifice to bring it down. Hopefully with the right decisions and good leadership, along with some sacrifice on our part, we will bring it down for our children and grandchildren.
But we all have another debt of which we should be concerned; maybe even fearful. For this debt is even greater. And it is not one that we, on our own, are able to pay down.
From our very first parents we have acquired a debt that is insurmountable. Their sin and now our sin have left us separated from God, owing him more than we could ever pay back. God gave us everything and we turned away. God gave us everything and we chose what was not ours to have. And so we hide from God knowing that we have not fulfilled our end of the deal. Our guilt and shame is piled on top of us. They weigh us down. We can’t see through them and can’t reach God because of the great divide that we have created. It keeps us from being who we are called to be; from loving how we are to love; from being as happy as we should be. And no program, no works of our own, no good deeds could ever pay this debt back. The debt clock keeps ticking and there seems to be no end in sight.
Then in the fullness of time, as the greatest act of love we could ever fathom, God came down to meet us and wipe our debt away. He ripped up the promissory note. He wound back the debt clock. He wiped our slate clean. Every mistake we made and sin we committed and the subsequent guilt we should bear was lifted from our shoulders. Jesus could pay off the debt because he is bigger than the debt. Being both God and man he has the resources. He is the program. He lifts the guilt off of our shoulders, places it on his own, and brings it to the cross. In his death and resurrection it is all wiped way. His love sets us free. He loves us that much.
And so the divorcée lifts up her head. The unfaithful father lets go of his guilt. The struggling teen has a second chance. The repentant criminal’s chains are broken. The cheating executive has a new beginning.
Jesus bore the debt of our guilt. He wiped our slate clean. We can be free.
During this election season, there is another thing that we all worry about. It is the role of government in helping the poor and the weak. It is a discussion that we need to have. As Christians we are called to uphold the common good; called to give a preferential option for the poor. I think that each political party is interested in their own way of working to uphold the common good. They are interested in helping the poor. They just have different ways of going about it.
But when we help others we want to see that if we spend money on programs that our money is used wisely. We want to see that our programs actually uphold the common good. We also want to see that if we have programs that they are not being taken advantage of. We worry that people are getting something that they really do not deserve. This is pretty understandable. We should be concerned with justice and fairness. We should be wise with the resources we use and how we help others.
But the reality is, though, that all of us are weak and poor in our own way. And all of us, whether we realize it or not, are receiving that which we do not deserve.
I am not referring here to programs and money. I am referring to God’s grace and mercy; to the forgiveness of our sins and the chance to go to heaven. I am referring to God’s love. For in our weaknesses, in our poverty as human beings suffering the results of the Fall and our sin, we have turned from God. We have sinned against him and not only do we have the debt that is mentioned before, but we have our own weakness that has left us even unable to raise our gaze to our Heavenly Father. Our eyes are left gazing on banality and mire and we don’t have the power to bring them to see the light of heaven. And this is not just the rich or the poor. It is us all. No matter how hard we try we can’t gaze up. We can’t see. We can’t lift ourselves up to be with God because our weakness is too great. No matter how talented we are or how good looking or how rich or how independent or how successful we can’t do it. We are all too weak. We are all too poor.
And so in the fullness of time, Jesus chose to become like us in all things but sin. He embraced our weakness. He embraced our poverty. He understands them both. And he brought our weakness with him on to the cross and transformed it through grace. This grace made available to us can only be defined as gratuitous: a free gift that did not need to be given. But God out of his love has given it to us. So we receive grace that we didn’t earn. We each receive the ability to gaze upon God again even though we couldn’t lift our heads. To be united with God even though we deserved division. We received it and it was free. No sum of money could have purchased it, no plea could have won it, no rhetoric could have argued for it. We didn’t pull ourselves up to grab hold of it and we didn’t create this grace. It was given to us as a free gift by the one who took on our weakness that we might truly be strong in him. And so we are all receiving that which we don’t deserve.
But he loves us that much. So we can be free.
People sometimes look upon saints within our church like they were out of their mind. We wonder how they could ever have followed God as they did. We wonder how a person could ever remain open to martyrdom. Or how one could risk being rejected for their faith. How one could stay faithfully married for life or choose to remain pure until marriage or practice business with honesty or sell all one has so another can simply eat. Well I am certainly not there. Perhaps some of you are. But my guess is that we are all still working on understanding this. I think that the key to living like a saint is found in debt and weakness. The saints saw how great a debt they owed God, and that they could not pay it. They saw how weak they were and they could not overcome it. And then they saw that Jesus stepped in. He took their debt on his shoulders and it was wiped clean. He embraced their weakness and it was redeemed. And then there was only one thing they could do: Love and serve him who first loved and served us.