In January 2015, the eastern European nation of Croatia canceled the debt of its poorest citizens. The prime minister convinced the banks, cities, companies, and telecommunications providers to forgive the loans without any reimbursement from the government.
From the Washington Post:
“We assess that this measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens,” Deputy Prime Minister Milanka Opacic was quoted as saying by Reuters. “Thus they will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt,” Opacic said earlier this month.
What this small country did was hailed as “unprecedented” and “exceptional.” Part of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia borders the Adriatic Sea and is slightly smaller than West Virginia. With economic growth prospects low, the government had wanted to provide its citizens with a “fresh start.” And yet, with a population of only 4.4 million, forgiving the debt for so many people was significant.
God gave us a fresh start when he forgave our debt, but unlike the Croatian government, he paid the balance in full. Our new debt-free lives in Christ mean we should remember these three important truths.
Truth #1: We are alive.
Many people know there’s something missing in their lives, and they seek to fill the emptiness with relationships, careers, experiences, wealth, children, and any number of good causes. These artificial gods provide false hope for a season, but they don’t bring permanent joy. Many try to replace the deadness with life, but life can only be found in Christ.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him… (Colossians 2:13)
To be physically dead is to be without force or power. Likewise, sin renders us powerless, lifeless, and spiritually dead.
But God makes us alive.
Truth #2: We are free.
Families on the verge of foreclosure or bankruptcy feel trapped. A loan of $50,000 might as well be a loan of $50 million if the borrower can only afford a monthly payment of $5. At that pace, neither loan will ever be repaid.
The anxiety that comes with the bondage of debt can be overwhelming, and financial distress has long been linked to health problems. Borrowers who finally pay off their debt find freedom. Paul reminded the Colossian church that they too can experience the relief of debt-free living knowing that the forgiveness of sin was complete.
… having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)
The church at Colossae did not need to rely on small payments such as ritual and ceremony that could do nothing to repay an overwhelming sin debt. They simply needed to seek the forgiveness that Christ had already achieved.
This is true for us as well. Faced with an insurmountable sin debt, we are tempted to offer small “payments” to appease God, such as joining a church or putting money in the offering plate on Sunday. But the debt was already paid in full when Jesus died, and we can say with assurance the words of Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Only the death of Christ can “set aside” the record of our sin once for all.
Truth #3: We are victorious.
By his death on the cross, Jesus won the victory over Satan.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:16)
The Holman New Testament Commentary[i] describes Christ’s victory on the cross like this:
We have a tendency to think of the death of Christ as his defeat and the resurrection as his victory. No. Christ won a victory over sin and Satan on the cross. The resurrection was God’s vindication of the victory already won. The resurrection was a declaration of power that Jesus is the Son of God; it is a public demonstration that confirms that his death had been effective for the forgiveness of sin.
This is great news. The wickedness that rules this world has already been defeated by Christ. He won, and now we don’t have to be controlled by our temptations any longer. The sense of relief and gratitude that the Croatians experienced when part of their financial burden was eased in January 2015 is only a small taste of what we experience at the forgiveness of sin.
Are you still living under the bondage of sin? Or are you experiencing the freedom that is available to you as a Christian?