Five Reasons for Optimism in 2011

5) Finally, as Patheos columnist Steven W. Smith points out, God is in charge. And in the age of grace, that does not mean judgment is hanging over us; it means forgiveness and restoration are available. I wrote about this at length in one of my first Patheos columns, but one point in particular is worth making here.

In the Law of Moses, God's detailed provision for righteous communal life, He incorporated the regular forgiveness of debt. The Jubilee Year in which debts were to be forgiven (Leviticus 25-27) did not occur often: its period was fifty years, meaning it came along only once in the average person's life. But it was instituted as a principle, and as a principle, it reflects the truth that our need for grace and forgiveness never ceases to recur.

It is worth contemplating the meaning of this Jubilee Year rule. One of its central implications is that there is a higher principle, in the mind of God, than the repayment of debt. In some senses—the spiritual and the economic—debt is often something we can never repay but only be forgiven. When it comes to monetary debt, the Law and Proverbs suggest that God is more concerned with how debt affects our individual consciences than with its function in the economy. It is as if, with the Jubilee Year regulation, He was saying that He is bigger than our rules, our schemes, and our mistakes—and that He intended to step in every fifty years and remind us of that with a material provision that to our modern minds seems almost unthinkable.

It is impossible to predict how this principle might play out in the current public-debt dilemma of America and many other nations. But it is encouraging to reflect that for something so significant to our pride and self-sufficiency as monetary debt, God anticipated our foolishness and provided for our forgiveness. He is interested in our hearts: in our repentance, faithfulness, humility, and integrity. He is not that interested in our balance sheets, with their mind-boggling trillions. He can as easily give us the means to repay them as He can excuse us from the obligations and consequences. We cannot make a mess that is too big for Him to handle.

I'm sure there are other reasons for optimism as 2011 unfolds before us. These are some that occur to me. And the last reason, that God has not ceased to provide and care for us, is the most important one of all.

1/10/2011 5:00:00 AM