Forgiving Our Debtors

One of the few email lists that I subscribe to is the Daily Dig, from The Bruderhof Communities. Their short, pithy quotes are filled with insights and often challenge the status quo, politically and spiritually.

This one came today for those of you who haven’t already seen it. It’s a quote by U-2’s Bono. Now, I am not a U-2 fan, but I have appreciated a lot of Bono’s comments in the past on the failures of organized religion to live as Jesus did in the world. He is truly an out-of-the box thinker who struggles with the reality of Christ’s life and words. His call to take seriously the overwhelming crisis in Africa and do something about it rings true from someone who seems to put his life and his money where his mouth is. This quote is entitled, “As We Forgive Our Debtors.”

Now, for all its failings and its perversions over the last 2,000 years–and as much as every exponent of this faith has attempted to dodge this idea–it is unarguably the central tenet of Christianity: that everybody is equal in God’s eyes. So you cannot, as a Christian, walk away from Africa. America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day.

What’s up on trial here is Christianity itself. You cannot walk away from this and call yourself a
Christian and sit in power. Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it’s to have any meaning in this world–and stop being its apologist.

Ouch! For more information on this proposal, click here, And please don’t think I posted this hoping you’ll make a connection between it and the request below. That is not in my heart, nor my desires.

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24 Comments
  1. Kelly July 7, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Agreed – organized religion has failed over the last 2000 years. It has failed in many aspects, not just this one. It has not allowed Jesus to live in and through it and it therefore, has not ‘demonstrated’ Him to the world. The world has not and does not see and experience Jesus and Who He is when it has come in contact with many of those who have and do profess His name.

    Our neighbor is our neighbor – whether next door, down the street or in Africa and to ‘cross the road’ to keep from encountering the person with HIV is unconscionable.

    I understand Bono’s passion – I understand his heart has been ‘taken’ with the plight of his brother and sister in Africa and I applaud his work there.

    However, Bono does not know how God will judge this country – or any other, and he does not know what the true ekklesia will have to do or become – because He and He alone will direct His church to accomplish what He intends – whether next door, down the street or in Africa.

  2. Stuart July 7, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing the quote Wayne, it’s hard hitting but who can deny it?

    I found myself quite moved over the weekend watching the Live8 concerts and related features on the TV. Bono, Bob Geldof and others involved speak with such a passion and a cry for justice that at times reminds me of the Old testament prophets and their call to the people of God to start doing the work of God instead of just playing around with rituals. (Isaiah 58 springs to my mind)

    Kelly, far be it for me to speak for Bono but I don’t think he was proscribing or predicting any particular judgment on America. I get the impression that he was trying to get across that God will hold accountable those that have the means and the power to help but do not. I absolutley agree that God aone will direct his church to act as he chooses. But he can certainly use powerful statements of truth, as above, to give that direction to his people.

  3. Kelly July 7, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Stuart – thanks for you thoughts on this. I agree, the whole subject is very emotionally loaded. There is great need and watching tv programs brings the situation as close to in front of one’s face as possible without really being there in person. These men and others do speak with great passion and it is good that they see and are doing something about what they see.

    I appreciate that you can not speak for Bono. In my perceiving, this, " America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day." sounds very close to "proscribing or predicting any particular judgment on America."

    Because the need is so great and the situation is so desperate and the hearts are so passionate it is very easy to try to use accusation and guilt to produce money to help.

    I believe that His people are to respond to the voice of the Lord – and allow Him to do His work. Isaiah 58 is a very good example of how humans – even those who name His name – fail and the blessing that comes when His own hear His voice and allow Him to do through them that which His heart directs. He can and does use powerful and passionate pleas to give direction to His people. And the Holy Spirit gives conviction to the hearts to hear and respond – but not by guilt. It seems to me that the love of Christ is to constrains us. As I said before, organized religion has failed to demonstrate Jesus to the world, and the world is very aware that the talk has not been walked.

    I am not saying that Bono was attempting to use accusation and guilt to get America or ‘the church’ to do something because I do not know his mind, but his words had that sound to me. To repeat, only God knows how America – or any other country – will be judged. And only God knows what He is calling His people to do.

  4. Kevin July 7, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    A little off topic, but not too much….

    It’s easy to be passionate about an issue with someone else’s resources. I’m glad this isn’t the case with Bono as it is with many others.

    Also, good intentions and poor policy isn’t much help either. Hopefully Christian organizations can give aid directly to hurting people. Governments, unfortunately, often use the aid for their own purposes.

    Fortunately there are a few decent organizations that get the job done directly.

    Meanwhile, here are some other opinions so we just don’t simply say it’s government’s responsiblity to deal with it.

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1120616709509&p=1006953079865

    http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,363604,00.html

    – Kevin

  5. Kelly July 7, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Agreed – organized religion has failed over the last 2000 years. It has failed in many aspects, not just this one. It has not allowed Jesus to live in and through it and it therefore, has not ‘demonstrated’ Him to the world. The world has not and does not see and experience Jesus and Who He is when it has come in contact with many of those who have and do profess His name.

    Our neighbor is our neighbor – whether next door, down the street or in Africa and to ‘cross the road’ to keep from encountering the person with HIV is unconscionable.

    I understand Bono’s passion – I understand his heart has been ‘taken’ with the plight of his brother and sister in Africa and I applaud his work there.

    However, Bono does not know how God will judge this country – or any other, and he does not know what the true ekklesia will have to do or become – because He and He alone will direct His church to accomplish what He intends – whether next door, down the street or in Africa.

  6. Stuart July 7, 2005 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing the quote Wayne, it’s hard hitting but who can deny it?

    I found myself quite moved over the weekend watching the Live8 concerts and related features on the TV. Bono, Bob Geldof and others involved speak with such a passion and a cry for justice that at times reminds me of the Old testament prophets and their call to the people of God to start doing the work of God instead of just playing around with rituals. (Isaiah 58 springs to my mind)

    Kelly, far be it for me to speak for Bono but I don’t think he was proscribing or predicting any particular judgment on America. I get the impression that he was trying to get across that God will hold accountable those that have the means and the power to help but do not. I absolutley agree that God aone will direct his church to act as he chooses. But he can certainly use powerful statements of truth, as above, to give that direction to his people.

  7. Kelly July 7, 2005 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Stuart – thanks for you thoughts on this. I agree, the whole subject is very emotionally loaded. There is great need and watching tv programs brings the situation as close to in front of one’s face as possible without really being there in person. These men and others do speak with great passion and it is good that they see and are doing something about what they see.

    I appreciate that you can not speak for Bono. In my perceiving, this, " America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day." sounds very close to "proscribing or predicting any particular judgment on America."

    Because the need is so great and the situation is so desperate and the hearts are so passionate it is very easy to try to use accusation and guilt to produce money to help.

    I believe that His people are to respond to the voice of the Lord – and allow Him to do His work. Isaiah 58 is a very good example of how humans – even those who name His name – fail and the blessing that comes when His own hear His voice and allow Him to do through them that which His heart directs. He can and does use powerful and passionate pleas to give direction to His people. And the Holy Spirit gives conviction to the hearts to hear and respond – but not by guilt. It seems to me that the love of Christ is to constrains us. As I said before, organized religion has failed to demonstrate Jesus to the world, and the world is very aware that the talk has not been walked.

    I am not saying that Bono was attempting to use accusation and guilt to get America or ‘the church’ to do something because I do not know his mind, but his words had that sound to me. To repeat, only God knows how America – or any other country – will be judged. And only God knows what He is calling His people to do.

  8. Jim in Spokane July 7, 2005 at 9:55 pm

    Wayne,

    I am a shameless U2 fan, but an even more shameless sell-out to God’s heart.

    I have always found it remarkable that U2 has been the most consistently popular band for about 25 years, yet Bono consistently dedicates his time to worthy purposes.

    Kevin: while I agree that it is irresponsible to pass all the load for world problems onto governments, the things that Bono fights for are somewhat effortless on the part of governments, and can improve the quality of life remarkably for people in the nations involved. Debt cancellation is out of the realm of the individual Christian…and an amazing amount of treatment for AIDS can be created by the stroke of a few G8 nation pens.

    Or will they give the wealthy tax cuts instead?

  9. Kevin July 7, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    A little off topic, but not too much….

    It’s easy to be passionate about an issue with someone else’s resources. I’m glad this isn’t the case with Bono as it is with many others.

    Also, good intentions and poor policy isn’t much help either. Hopefully Christian organizations can give aid directly to hurting people. Governments, unfortunately, often use the aid for their own purposes.

    Fortunately there are a few decent organizations that get the job done directly.

    Meanwhile, here are some other opinions so we just don’t simply say it’s government’s responsiblity to deal with it.

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1120616709509&p=1006953079865

    http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,363604,00.html

    – Kevin

  10. J July 7, 2005 at 11:05 pm

    I recently listened to a Christian musician talk about American Christianity. He said that in the early church, becoming a Christian was hard thing to do, but an easy thing to understand. In America today, becoming a Christian is an easy thing to do, but a hard thing to understand. We have it so easy compared to the earlier believers and also believers in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, but who is really better off?

    Just a thought on the subject.

    –J

  11. J July 7, 2005 at 11:38 pm

    Another Bono quote that is very powerful.

    At an event with Michael W. Smith just after the release of U2’s new album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb", Bono asked Smith if he knew how to dismantle an atomic bomb. Smith replied that he did not while looking confused. Bono replied, "With love".

    Isn’t that the answer for all kinds of problems? If we will love Africa, we will show that love though practical and meaningful ways. We will not just ignore their cries. We will not just send them crumbs from under our tables. We will not have strings attached. We should first of all get to know them by taking the time to educate ourselves on what is going on there.

  12. Rudolf Roos July 8, 2005 at 12:33 am

    I want to toss in some questions.

    The issue about children starving and AIDS and so on is of course very emotional, but sometimes the media also turn it into an assault on (at least) my emotions. I mean, how many people dying does it take to start crying. The tsunamimediahelp was also a very emotional marketing campaign (at least in my country, The Netherlands).

    I have been thinking about this, and maybe one of you can shed some more light on all of this.

    150 years ago there was no television. Simple people like you and me did’t have to face all the horrors in the world, like nowadays. We simply wouldn’t know about the dying people in africa, and we europeans wouldn’t know much about the problems of america.

    Nowadays I am faced (assaulted) with lots of painful images of people all over the world. The problem is not solvable by me as an individual, and those who can do something (world leaders), don’t. Forgiving debts, opening up trade barriers and sending food would solve the hunger problem, and we as western countries have the resources to do that. We’re as nations just plainly egoistic.

    So what I’m wondering about is:

    Is it a normal thing to be under emotional attack from the media? (look at history)

    All this far away pain that I cannot do much about leaves me with a feeling of helplessness. If there were people in my neighbourhood to help, I could do much about it, much more concrete things than ‘sending money’ (which African natives say isn’t what they really need, they need long term people to live there and help them build the society).

    O, and just for the background, I’m a simple student who has not the possibillity to give much money away.

  13. Jim in Spokane July 8, 2005 at 12:55 am

    Wayne,

    I am a shameless U2 fan, but an even more shameless sell-out to God’s heart.

    I have always found it remarkable that U2 has been the most consistently popular band for about 25 years, yet Bono consistently dedicates his time to worthy purposes.

    Kevin: while I agree that it is irresponsible to pass all the load for world problems onto governments, the things that Bono fights for are somewhat effortless on the part of governments, and can improve the quality of life remarkably for people in the nations involved. Debt cancellation is out of the realm of the individual Christian…and an amazing amount of treatment for AIDS can be created by the stroke of a few G8 nation pens.

    Or will they give the wealthy tax cuts instead?

  14. Stuart July 8, 2005 at 1:56 am

    Hi Kelly. If I knew how, I woul have put the word "particular" in italics for emphasis. I was responding to your staement: "However, Bono does not know how God will judge this country"

    I suppose that I was just trying to say that Bono had not indicated "how" this would happen. Different words conjure up different images for different people. When some people hear of judgement they think "9/11" or famine, plague and pestilience. Bono proscribed no "particular judgment " he didn’t prophesy any of these things. When I hear the phrase "God will judge" I immediatly think "God will hold accountable" in other words he is moved by our actions or lack of them. In this case I believe he would be moved for two main reasons-1)his love and for compassion for the people of Africa. 2) His love for the people of the west. God loves us and desires to see us with the same heart that he has. If he was umoved by our lack of concern for the world then he would be like the parent who doesn’t care what their child does.

    In this reagard Bono is simply saying in his own words what many biblical authors and Christ himself have said in the past. "It matters to God what you do".

    Obvioulsy as individuals, each one of us has to know in our own hearts what, if anything, we can specificaly do. But it is a begining for people to ackowledge that we as a whole want to see help our brothers and sisters. This was largly what Live8 was about. Not fund raising-but getting many people the world over to say"we would like to see somthing done" and sending that message on to those with the power act.

  15. J July 8, 2005 at 2:05 am

    I recently listened to a Christian musician talk about American Christianity. He said that in the early church, becoming a Christian was hard thing to do, but an easy thing to understand. In America today, becoming a Christian is an easy thing to do, but a hard thing to understand. We have it so easy compared to the earlier believers and also believers in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, but who is really better off?

    Just a thought on the subject.

    –J

  16. J July 8, 2005 at 2:38 am

    Another Bono quote that is very powerful.

    At an event with Michael W. Smith just after the release of U2’s new album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb", Bono asked Smith if he knew how to dismantle an atomic bomb. Smith replied that he did not while looking confused. Bono replied, "With love".

    Isn’t that the answer for all kinds of problems? If we will love Africa, we will show that love though practical and meaningful ways. We will not just ignore their cries. We will not just send them crumbs from under our tables. We will not have strings attached. We should first of all get to know them by taking the time to educate ourselves on what is going on there.

  17. Rudolf Roos July 8, 2005 at 3:33 am

    I want to toss in some questions.

    The issue about children starving and AIDS and so on is of course very emotional, but sometimes the media also turn it into an assault on (at least) my emotions. I mean, how many people dying does it take to start crying. The tsunamimediahelp was also a very emotional marketing campaign (at least in my country, The Netherlands).

    I have been thinking about this, and maybe one of you can shed some more light on all of this.

    150 years ago there was no television. Simple people like you and me did’t have to face all the horrors in the world, like nowadays. We simply wouldn’t know about the dying people in africa, and we europeans wouldn’t know much about the problems of america.

    Nowadays I am faced (assaulted) with lots of painful images of people all over the world. The problem is not solvable by me as an individual, and those who can do something (world leaders), don’t. Forgiving debts, opening up trade barriers and sending food would solve the hunger problem, and we as western countries have the resources to do that. We’re as nations just plainly egoistic.

    So what I’m wondering about is:

    Is it a normal thing to be under emotional attack from the media? (look at history)

    All this far away pain that I cannot do much about leaves me with a feeling of helplessness. If there were people in my neighbourhood to help, I could do much about it, much more concrete things than ‘sending money’ (which African natives say isn’t what they really need, they need long term people to live there and help them build the society).

    O, and just for the background, I’m a simple student who has not the possibillity to give much money away.

  18. Stuart July 8, 2005 at 4:56 am

    Hi Kelly. If I knew how, I woul have put the word "particular" in italics for emphasis. I was responding to your staement: "However, Bono does not know how God will judge this country"

    I suppose that I was just trying to say that Bono had not indicated "how" this would happen. Different words conjure up different images for different people. When some people hear of judgement they think "9/11" or famine, plague and pestilience. Bono proscribed no "particular judgment " he didn’t prophesy any of these things. When I hear the phrase "God will judge" I immediatly think "God will hold accountable" in other words he is moved by our actions or lack of them. In this case I believe he would be moved for two main reasons-1)his love and for compassion for the people of Africa. 2) His love for the people of the west. God loves us and desires to see us with the same heart that he has. If he was umoved by our lack of concern for the world then he would be like the parent who doesn’t care what their child does.

    In this reagard Bono is simply saying in his own words what many biblical authors and Christ himself have said in the past. "It matters to God what you do".

    Obvioulsy as individuals, each one of us has to know in our own hearts what, if anything, we can specificaly do. But it is a begining for people to ackowledge that we as a whole want to see help our brothers and sisters. This was largly what Live8 was about. Not fund raising-but getting many people the world over to say"we would like to see somthing done" and sending that message on to those with the power act.

  19. Diane July 8, 2005 at 6:37 am

    Very interesting discussion. It’s my fervent desire to see the Church growing in understanding and practice of who she is because she is God’s plan for bringing Him to the world. She is to be the alternative government.

  20. Kevin July 8, 2005 at 9:01 am

    A big hearty Amen, Diane.

    One thing for sure…it seems to be an issue everyone is talking about.

    I like tend to agree with Colson’s view.

    http://www.pfm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=BreakPoint_Commentaries1&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=16296

    He mentions World Vision at the end. There are a handful of other big ones too. There are also plenty of small groups or individuals that make a difference to the people they minister too. Some friends of friends have been going over there for many years ministering and preaching the gospel of grace!

    – Kevin

  21. Diane July 8, 2005 at 9:37 am

    Very interesting discussion. It’s my fervent desire to see the Church growing in understanding and practice of who she is because she is God’s plan for bringing Him to the world. She is to be the alternative government.

  22. Kevin July 8, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    A big hearty Amen, Diane.

    One thing for sure…it seems to be an issue everyone is talking about.

    I like tend to agree with Colson’s view.

    http://www.pfm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=BreakPoint_Commentaries1&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=16296

    He mentions World Vision at the end. There are a handful of other big ones too. There are also plenty of small groups or individuals that make a difference to the people they minister too. Some friends of friends have been going over there for many years ministering and preaching the gospel of grace!

    – Kevin

  23. Wayne July 8, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    Rudolf,

    I was touched by your post. I have known folks paralyzed by suffering in our world to the degree that pain overwhelms them. I’m not sure if this is what you’re describing or not, but I’m not sure it is a healthy response.

    I’m not sure what you meant by ‘being under emotional attack’ from the media. Certainly we can be touched by the pain of others, but if we feel overwhelmed by what we cannot do instead of challenged to do what we can, that might be part of the problem.

    I’d put this before Jesus and see what he wants to sort out with you. There may be some ways you think about these things that make them more painful than necessary and more paralyzing than helpful. But, no, I don’t think it is a normal response, which means there is some freedom ahead for you that you’ve not known yet. I pray you find it in him!

    Wayne

  24. Wayne July 8, 2005 at 9:34 pm

    Rudolf,

    I was touched by your post. I have known folks paralyzed by suffering in our world to the degree that pain overwhelms them. I’m not sure if this is what you’re describing or not, but I’m not sure it is a healthy response.

    I’m not sure what you meant by ‘being under emotional attack’ from the media. Certainly we can be touched by the pain of others, but if we feel overwhelmed by what we cannot do instead of challenged to do what we can, that might be part of the problem.

    I’d put this before Jesus and see what he wants to sort out with you. There may be some ways you think about these things that make them more painful than necessary and more paralyzing than helpful. But, no, I don’t think it is a normal response, which means there is some freedom ahead for you that you’ve not known yet. I pray you find it in him!

    Wayne

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