Why do we remember the things we should forget and forget the things we should remember? We can coddle offenses, abrasive remarks, slights, and snubs…remembering their perpetrators for decades…while we forget the innumerable transgressions we ourselves have been forgiven?
Maybe you don’t; I do.
When you grow up in church, there are things you tend to take for granted–like the love of God. I cannot remember a time when I felt alone in the universe, unloved and unwanted, without God in the world. [Well, ok, there have been emotional upheavals of temporary insanity where I ‘felt’ unloved and unwanted…] I have always known, at least in theory, that I am loved.
The catch is when we take God’s love for granted, we miss its deeply heart-transforming effects, especially when it comes to loving and forgiving others.
Having grown up among a ‘faithful few’ who considered themselves rather holier than the common lot, I assumed it rather natural that God would love us. Being so ‘good’ at keeping rules made us just the loveable sort, right? This rather flew in the face of reality. Truth is, there are few things more repugnant than the ‘holier-than-thou’ when they are busy being ‘good’. But sin is deceitful and pride is deceptive and it’s one of the last things we recognize in ourselves… So God has to keep bringing it to my attention.
He has a way of putting His finger on things to expose the contrast between my heart and His. It seems that the things He would choose to forgive and forget, I remember. The things He calls me to remember, I forget.
This week we had a trip down memory lane… back to Junior High. I was insecure, shy except with closest friends, good at grades but poor at relationships. I will not speak for ‘her’, only that she, for whatever reason, whether knowingly or obliviously, trampled on my insecurities and caused me pain and embarrassment that has stuck with me. My wounded pride callused over with resentment that still simmers at the memories. Her personality was to me ‘overbearing’ and down through the years I have met others like her, with similar reaction. If these sorts are unavoidable, I quietly resent them and am quick to keep account of their wrongs. These slights are of course trivial in comparison to the forgiveness I’ve been shown, yet I remember the offense and forget the forgiveness. Why is that?
Why would I rather inventory my scars than remember the scars that bought my forgiveness?
Is it really so unpardonable that a person should be unappreciative of my finer qualities and insensitive to my vulnerabilities? Is God’s love so inadequate that I’m left dependent on human substitutes?
I clearly haven’t grasped the significance of this love I say I know. It’s obvious in the things I choose to remember and those I casually forget. I am a poor lover, too often living in an illusion that I am somehow more deserving of love than are the people who overlook or offend me. Forgetting what I’ve been forgiven, I am quick to remember their sin, and to keep remembering…
It appears that in my grateful tallying of God’s multitudinous daily love gifts (home, family, garden, eyesight, flowers, and such) I have overlooked the primary evidence of His Love–His forgiveness of my innumerable offenses against Him. When I miss this, I am in turn a poor lover, keeping long accounts of others’ faults and no account of my own. Yet “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom.5:8 This clearly wasn’t a case of my being just irresistibly loveable! Yet he overlooked my offensiveness and invited me to live forgiven, as a testimony to His Glorious Love.
Whose glory am I living for when I take offense at being slighted?
He chose to destroy the record of my wrongs and never hold them against me.
Who am I to keep a record of wrongs?
Jesus’ words came through loud and clear in Sunday’s sermon from Matthew 5. This is the passage where He elaborates on what true righteousness looks like–you know, the one that redefines murder. While we plead innocent as long as we haven’t actually killed anyone, God cross-examines: But have you been angry? Have you insulted? Have you called your sister a ‘Fool!’ (Matthew 5:21ff) My disdain for those God loves immensely (as much as He loves me) is not lightly excused. It’s not the way His Kingdom works. I have been forgiven much. If I grasp this, I will love much. And love holds no record of wrongs…
Why then do I cling to offenses and perceived snubs as though my life depended on it? Are they scapegoats that excuse my faults and justify my weaknesses and so explain ‘the way I am’… (Do I really want to stay this way?)
Must I find fault with you so that my faults don’t look so offensive? Is that it? If this is so, I have not understood forgiveness or valued this unconditional love in which I live and move and have my being!
While washing dishes in the middle of these ponderings, just above the sink I read these words:
In Him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of His grace,
which he LAVISHED on us—
All this is part of God’s ultimate plan to unite everything and everyone in Christ, to the praise of His Glory! (Eph.1:7-10)
Here’s the perspective I need to remember when strolls down memory lane evoke negative emotions. Remember this. You’ve been salvaged, forgiven, and lavishly graced with unfathomable love, all for God’s great glory. How then can I view somebody else’s petty faults as unpardonable?
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. Rom.14:4
I took Sunday’s sermon home with me and looked again at Matthew 5… There I was happily journaling away trying to get to the bottom of my hurts and soothe my psyche…when, WHAT’S THIS? I found these instructions following the bit about calling your brother a fool: “SO, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there REMEMBER that your brother has something AGAINST YOU, leave your gift there… and go be reconciled to your brother first, then come and offer your gift!”(Mt.5:23,24)
Here I’ve been all wrapped up in who owes me some apology for their existence, and God’s saying to remember whom I have offended!
Now that’s a turn-around! Why isn’t this the first thing on my mind to resolve? My offensiveness! Who’s keeping tabs on that?
God has loved me in spite of my sins against Him. He invites me to abide in this love–to know it and to show it in the self-forgetful way I love and forgive.
Sure, we all want people to care about us, to encourage us, to be keen on our interests and sensitive to our vulnerabilities. But when they don’t we find out how well we’re abiding in God’s love. Can we forego being made much of in order to make much of the One who loves us inexhaustibly? When we choose to love and to forgive rather than be consumed with our hurts, we show what God is like.
And I expect that as we do, we’ll begin to appreciate more fully His unfathomable love, for us AND for ‘them’. Then maybe we’ll begin to forget the things He forgets, and to remember the things He remembers. And our strolls down memory lane will become opportunities to stand in awe of all we’ve been forgiven, and how very well we are loved!
- This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me… Lk.22:19
- Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Rom.15:7
- Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Mt.6:12
- Owe no one anything, except to love each other. Rom.13:8
- Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col.3:12-13
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil.3:12-14