When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
As I walk with families on their journeys from homelessness to housing, biblical concepts like grace, redemption, and restoration take on a richness and tangibility that turns the Bible from black and white words into technicolor. This Good Friday, Jesus’ final words from the cross, “It is finished,” are like this. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the breaking point it has created for families facing homeless, Jesus words, “It is finished,” are rich, timely, active, poignant…technicolor.
If you look up the biblical Greek word for “It is finished” (Tetelestai), you will discover an interesting fact: that word was written on debt documents and receipts in New Testament times. It was the equivalent of that red stamp you might see on bills today – “PAID IN FULL.”
So when Jesus uttered his last words, the connection between personal debt and Jesus’ death would have been quite clear: Jesus Christ died to “pay in full” the debt of the world’s sin, my sin, your sin. There is nothing we can do to deserve it. There is nothing we can do to earn it. We must only accept this free gift of grace that is “paid in full.” Wow!
Fast forward 2,000 years later to LA County. Diana is weeping at her kitchen table, trying to make sure her daughter doesn’t see her tears. She is in a panic, looking at pink bills piled up with “OVERDUE” stamps, including a letter from her landlord about unpaid rent. She knows the eviction moratorium is going to be lifted in a matter of months, and she has no way to pay her back rent. She feels like a failure. She is terrified. She has been homeless once before, and to imagine being evicted and homeless with her daughter is excruciating.
120,000 households like Diana’s are at risk of eviction in LA County. The Covid-19 pandemic is nearing the finish line. Many of us have been vaccinated (including many of us at Door of Hope – thank God, truly!). We can see the end in sight. But for low-income families who owe thousands of dollars in back rent, the crisis is just beginning. It is not finished, because their rent is not paid in full.
By God’s grace, Diana was referred to Door of Hope. She spoke with a case manager who told Diana that she was not a failure, but rather a beloved and cherished child of God. Then, she offered to help. Door of Hope “paid in full” enough rent to bring Diana back into good relationship with her landlord. Over the next 3 months, Diana and her case manager worked together on budgeting, increasing income, emotional and spiritual support, and a plan for long-term success.
“PAID IN FULL” has an incredibly tangible meaning for Diana that many of us can’t grasp. I don’t want to equate the act of ‘rent forgiveness’ with the profound and saving act of Jesus’ crucifixion. Nothing is bigger and more profound and more important than Grace. But I do want to suggest that ‘rent forgiveness’ is a tangible expression of God’s grace. For the desperate mother who is living in constant fear of that knock on the door when she and her kids will be escorted out of their apartment, never to return, it is life-changing.
Please consider making a gift to the Covid Relief Fund today. A donation of $1,000 gives one month of rental assistance for a family facing eviction. Your gift in any amount to the Covid Relief Fund by April 15th will be matched up to $200,000!