Placing Offenses in the Debit Column
Placing Offenses in the Debit Column
When life presents us with difficulties and hurts that we feel are unfair we can choose how we will respond to these events in two ways. The first is a natural response that we all have and that is to respond in a way that will make the offender pay for what they have done. We will put the event in the debit column of the ledger. We may respond coolly or aloof to the individual until we get a satisfactory apology or until we determine that an adequate penalty has been paid for the wrong that has been inflicted upon us. In effect we have placed him in a debtor’s prison where we reserve the right to punish them for their transgression. We have taken the pathway of resentment and retaliation, getting even, extracting payment for what they have done to us.
The other way that we can deal with the offense is by letting go of the offense that has been inflicted upon us and let God be the one who is strong enough and big enough to handle the problem with His perfect justice. There is an example in the Old Testament that deals with this, although it took many years for it to play out. Jacob stole the birthright by deception from his brother Esau. Note Esau’s initial reaction and response to the deception. Genesis 27:41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Esau was storing up, biding his time, intent on getting his revenge and then some. Esau had placed this event in his life in the debit column of his ledger. He had in effect placed Jacob in the debtor’s prison by the choice that he made. By his choice he had also placed himself in the debtor’s prison. Esau failed to rely upon God and instead relied upon his basic natural instincts to take revenge upon his brother Jacob. It took Esau many years to turn to the pathway of forgiveness. Note his reaction upon his meeting many years later as Jacob was returning from being in exile. Also note Jacob’s response as he looked up and saw Esau coming with 400 men to meet him in Genesis chapter 33. Jacob made the assumption that Esau was coming in anger to take revenge. Genesis 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Note the amount of time that it took for Esau to change his mind. Jacob had worked for Laban for 21 years. Note Jacob had a long span of time to think about what he had done to his brother. Esau had the same amount of time to think about how it had affected his life. And in the end he had chosen the path of forgiveness. Many times it will take us many years as it did Esau to choose the path of forgiveness. The event of Jacob’s deception in order to steal Esau’s birthright must have played out in both of these brothers minds many times over the 21 years. God finally opened their eyes so that they could choose the pathway of forgiveness that was best for both of them. We must remember that forgiving others is a command, it is not an option. Note what our Lord said: Matthew 6:14–15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
We might ask in this situation, who was hurt the most by their unforgiveness in the beginning?
Why was it necessary for Jacob to run off to a foreign country in order to feel safe from his brother Esau?
Placing offenses in the debit column of the ledger is the natural response of all of mankind to our being harmed, abused, or mistreated. Invariably it produces the bitter fruit of deeper pain, resentment and bondage.
There is ultimately a better way. That way is God’s way of forgiveness.