Confessions of a Write-Off by Brad Jersak
I was a write-off –
I know, I know. We don’t like to descend into the dehumanizing “worm theology” of those degrading faith traditions that spout our “total depravity.” I firmly believe we’re all precious children of our heavenly Father and no matter how disordered, we still bear the image of God.
By using the term “write-off,” I’m not talking about our identity in Christ. I’m describing my subjective experience… how I have often felt in times when the human condition gets the best of me. In those periods of cloudy introspection, it’s easy enough to conclude, like David (in Psalm 22), “I’m a worm and not a man.” It’s not a statement of reality but a confession of pained emotion.
And both the cruel world system (of social media, for example) and “the accuser of the brethren” are only too pleased to confirm those feelings and pile on the abuse (with receipts!) until we conclude, “I’m a write-off,” defined as worthless, insignificant, and irredeemable. I.e., a worthless asset not worth saving. By that definition, I have often been tempted to write myself off.
It’s a very dark and dangerous space, best addressed in honest confession before God and an open heart to hear his Good-News response.
I am a write-off… of another kind –
In the wake of Good Friday this year, I pondered the gospel of Jesus Christ once again, and especially his cross-shaped redemption of humankind. Another definition of “write-off” came to mind: the cancellation of a bad debt.
By that definition, God examines the cumulative debt of humanity’s missteps and misadventures, calculates the impossibility of our paying them off, and then simply cancels them, assuming the cost himself. It’s an economic metaphor of debt forgiveness similar to the legal metaphor of pardon instead of punishment. In both cases, salvation is a gift rather than a transaction. That’s what grace is.
It’s the kindness of God and scandal of grace that we can’t fathom if we never participate in the Jesus Way of grace toward others (think of the unforgiving steward in Matthew 18:21-35). But some of us have known the joy of witnessing the relief and gratitude of those we’ve forgiven in the same way. Releasing someone from what they owe us (actually owe us or imagine they owe us) is a wonderful gift to ourselves and a beautiful experience of grace. We discover that the debts we write off (cancel) help us see that others are not write-offs (worthless) after all. And we may even see ourselves more clearly, not as write-offs, but as treasures in God’s house.
- Have you ever felt like a write-off? Did you know that you aren’t worthless to God? You’re a beloved child of a loving heavenly Father who wants the best for you and is here to help.
- Did you know he has already written off your debts? Seeing the red numbers canceled from your account is a great relief. But to experience that truth in our hearts, we often need to agree, rather than being our own debt collection agents. Can you let that go?
- Sometimes, we can’t let that go because we refuse to let someone else go. It’s hard to open our hands to grace when our fists our clenched around our brother’s or sister’s throat, trying to squeeze what they owe us out of them. Is there a write-off person you could release today and leave in God’s care? It might unlock you from the debtor’s prison of resentment and become a breakthrough of grace in your own life.