There is a notion that forgiveness and reconciliation requires that old wrongs be erased from the memory banks of the brain. Some folks even have the notion that God who knows the end from the beginning and exists in the eternal present, has no memory of our sins, once He has forgiven them. The mere existence of the Bible which records the sins of the saints of the past, gives the lie to that notion. God is all knowing and the facts of our sins are never forgotten. The risen Christ for all eternity bears in his hands and feet and side the scars caused by his death on the cross! They will always remind us that we were sinners for whom He died. So, what then does forgiveness mean? It is not a matter of WHAT we remember, but HOW we hold what we remember.
Forgiveness means that just as God looks at us through Christ and chooses not to remember our sins against us, so reconciliation requires us not to remember the sins of others against them.
For many years, I drove a school bus part-time. And periodically that meant as a school bus driver I had to pass a road and skills test to maintain my license. The inspector for the state DOT needed to watch me safely do student pick-ups, drop-offs and railroad crossings. On one occasion as a veteran driver, I blew the air brakes pre-trip procedure on a technicality. So, a retest was required a few weeks later. On that occasion, I was a bit nervous. Would the inspector remember my past failure? To make matters worse, on the retest, I came to a railroad crossing and while crossing the tracks realized I had not cancelled the master switch, with the result that my red SOS lights were activated and the crossing arm in front of the bus stuck out like a harpoon. He could not have missed it. I uttered an immediate loud “oops!” But before I could say anything else, the inspector said, “Good Ed, you didn’t stop until you had safely crossed the tracks. Is there anything more you want to say?” And realizing he wasn’t remembering my sin against me, I said, “No Sir!” Out of sympathy, I suppose, that inspector chose not to remember my faults then both past and present. But God does better than that!
God is not merely loving and sympathetic! He does not remember our sins against us, because He is RIGHTEOUS to forgive us our sins, because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. God’s Son took the full penalty for our sins upon Himself, such that all the just wrath of God was fully satisfied by the blood of Christ. The only thing God can now extend to us, is His love and forgiveness. Does he remember our sins? Yes, but they are never ever remembered against us. And, so it is, that if a brother or sister repents and receives forgiveness, we can and must reassure them that because Christ bore it all, our sins as well as theirs, so, they need not fear we will revisit their transgressions. For as the apostle Paul mandated, we must:
“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 TLB Paraphrase
Look, I know that forgiveness and reconciliation is not the easiest thing to which we are called, but there was One who did the most difficult thing in all history for anyone to do, and He did it for you and me. He bore your sins and He bore mine. On the cross His arms were stretched-out wide and they remain wide even today, open to all who have offended Him and seek forgiveness, if they will simply come to Him in repentance and faith. He asks us now to join Him in His work by proclaiming the message of reconciliation toward God for sinners, and living out the meaning of forgiveness and reconciliation in our relationships with others.