“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” –Romans 8:1-2
When I read these verses today, I stopped to wonder how many people actually believe them. I had to stop and search my heart to be sure that I truly believe them. I say I believe them. I believe I believe them. But do my actions prove I do?
As I prayed about this, asking God, “Do I really believe that there is now no condemnation for me? Or am I still trying to earn Your grace, so I can be certain there’s no condemnation for me?” the parable of the unmerciful servant came to mind. (If you are unfamiliar with this story, click here to read the NIV version at BibleGateway.com.)
In this parable told by Jesus, a man owes the king so much money that he will never in his lifetime be able to repay it all. The king, wanting to settle accounts, declares that the man and his entire family be sold into slavery to pay the debt. But the man falls at the king’s feet and begs for mercy, promising to somehow find a way to pay the debt. The king, feeling great compassion for the man and his family, chooses to do more than the man asked; he cancels the entire debt and sets the man free.
But the man response is puzzling. He immediately goes out, finds someone who owes him money, and throws that man in jail until the debt can be paid. Naturally, witnesses are upset about this. They tell the king, who becomes angry with the man. The king tells the man that, out of gratitude for his own forgiveness, he should have shown mercy to the man he needed to forgive. Then the king throws the man in jail to be tortured until he can pay his impossible debt in full.
I’ve never understood why someone who was forgiven such a huge debt would go out and treat someone who owed them just a little bit that way. After today’s reflections, however, I’m pretty sure these actions have something to do with whether or not that someone truly believes Romans 8:1-2.
You see, if the servant had truly believed that his entire debt was forgiven, he would have, I think, forgiven the one who owed him. I don’t think he believed this, though. He had asked for time. He wanted to pay his debt. He wanted to prove to the king that he was worthy of forgiveness, that he was able to repay in full without anyone’s grace. And so, as soon as the king set him free, he went out to collect funds to repay the debt. There was no gratitude in his heart because, though the king had indeed forgiven him, his pride had kept him from forgiving himself and convinced him that the king hadn’t really forgiven him either. This pride made him a prisoner who longed to be set free. It wrongly told him that collecting funds from others with debts would open the door of his cell.
The Pharisees were a lot like this unmerciful servant, imposing impossible-to-keep rules and regulations on others. By enforcing the law, they thought themselves worthy of the Kingdom of God. In their minds, they were proving themselves to God.
But the Bible is clear that we can never do enough to prove ourselves worthy of God’s Kingdom. We can’t do enough righteous deeds. We can’t keep the Law perfectly. Like the unmerciful servant, we can only throw ourselves at the feet of our King and beg for His mercy. And thanks to Jesus Christ, we have it! Praise His name!
All we have to do is believe. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! There’s nothing to earn. Nothing to prove. Nothing to demand or collect from our fellow servants. The King has set us free, and we are free indeed.
Once we truly believe this, our actions will show it. Instead of rushing out to throw our debtors in prison until they pay what they owe, we’ll tell them what the King did for us and point them toward freedom, too. Having freely received, we will want to freely give. We’ll live lives of grace and gratitude. We will love as the Spirit leads.
- Do you believe?
- What would help you to believe?
- How must this belief impact your life?
Father, thank You for forgiveness, for freedom from condemnation. Thank You for new life in Christ. We believe! Help us live our belief. We love You, Lord. Amen.