Graduations are usually a time of exuberant celebration, as those being awarded their hard-earned degrees joyfully acknowledge their accomplishments and look toward the future with high hopes and expectations.
But the 2020 and 2021 graduates of Wilberforce University had even more reason to celebrate at the commencement ceremony this past spring. The school, a university affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, gave their students an additional cause to be joyful. Officials at Wilberforce decided to forgive any debt that these students had incurred to the university.
The president of Wilberforce, Eldred Anthony Pinkard, announced, “Because you have shown that you are capable of doing work under difficult circumstances, because you represent the best of your generation, we wish to give you a fresh start. So therefore the Wilberforce University board of trustees has authorized me to forgive any debt. Your accounts have been cleared and you don’t owe Wilberforce anything. Congratulations.”
To say that the news was well-received by the students would be a huge understatement. The president’s announcement was interrupted by screaming, shouting and jumping. The smiling and laughing Pinkard had to pause before continuing his announcement. When he finished there were more cheers, screams and jumps from the jubilant students. They were extremely appreciative to receive this unexpected and generous gift.
This reminds us of the grace and mercy that God has shown us through his son Jesus Christ. Unlike the students who were deemed worthy of such an honor, we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. We in no way earned the salvation that we are freely offered, nor do we deserve such a great blessing. No, it is a matter of God’s grace. He loved this sinful world, and every single sinner in it, so much that he sent his one and only son Jesus to die on a cross to pay for the sins of the world. For anyone who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior, their debt of sin is paid; it is forgiven.
Just as President Pinkard made the announcement that the students’ debt had been cancelled, God has announced that our debt has been forgiven if only we will accept Christ and live for him. The Bible over and over makes the announcement of the news that is so good that it is difficult for many people to believe. But it’s true! Jesus has paid the debt we owed. We only need to accept his grace and respond to him in faith that is demonstrated through repentance, confession and baptism.
And just like the forgiven students responded with shouts and cheers, it is only natural that we Christians who have been forgiven respond with our exuberant worship and joyful obedience. Those who are saved joyfully and thankfully serve and praise the One who would rather die in our place than live without us in heaven!
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us…”—Ephesians 1:7-8.