When I was younger, my brothers and I sometimes did things to each other that we probably shouldn’t have done. I can still remember the first time I was left home alone at night to watch my little brother. After he went to sleep, I heard someone walking around the house, then heard someone banging on the dining room window. I was pretty freaked out. I ran to my parents’ room and was about to call 911. Instead I called my grandparents who lived next door, and it was a good thing I did. As the phone rang on the other side, I heard the front door open and it turned out to have been my older brother trying to scare me. It worked. What he did was really mean, and I was upset. Eventually I forgave him though, and looking back on it I can laugh. But I have never forgotten what he put me through that night.
We do a lot of things that upset God, things much worse than scaring some prepubescent kid by banging on a window. When we sin we’re spitting in Jesus’ face. That may seem like a harsh metaphor, but it’s appropriate. God set a standard for us to follow, and when we don’t follow it we reject his word. Sin is serious. By right he should remember every evil thing we do so that he could hold it against us on judgment day. God forgives us. But it is important to realize that he does not forget our sins.
As humans, we can forget things. We’re not perfect, and neither are our memories. There are lots of things in my life that I have forgotten – at least I assume so, I can’t actually recall. The Almighty God cannot forget things, because if he did that would imply that he is imperfect, slightly less that all powerful. He doesn’t forget. Rather, much more incredibly, he makes a choice not to remember our sins. He chooses to remove our transgressions from his thoughts, chooses not to dwell on our iniquities. If he merely forgot, then we would have to live in the fear that someday he might remember and smite us with lightning from Heaven. The fact that he makes a choice assures us that he will not remember ever. Our sins are gone for good.
I used to think that there was no way that God could forgive my sins. I know what I’ve done, and it isn’t pretty. I’m a high quality sinner, and somehow what I have done always seems to be unforgivable to me. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and this is the conclusion I have come to: Jesus gave his life on a Roman cross two thousand years ago so that every transgression we commit could be forgiven. A sacrifice that brilliant is not limited in its coverage of sin – every iniquity can be forgiven. He didn’t go to all that trouble only to leave a few remaining sins he could hold against us. Once we remember that this forgiveness comes out of infinite love it becomes easier to accept.
David has some encouraging words on the subject of what God does with our sin:
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:11-12
The east and the west never meet. When God chooses not to remember our sins, we will never meet them again. His forgiveness, like his love, is perfect. As members of the human race, we can forgive people for things they do, but it’s hard for us to forget. I may have forgiven my brother, but I haven’t forgotten. It takes a loving God to willingly say, “I forgive you my child, and I will remember your sin no more.”
Matthew Westacott, OWI Youth Leader