When God dealt with my sins, he dropped them into the sea of his forgetfulness, and then put up a sign saying ‘No Fishing’. And there they remain, never to be thought of again.
This is the most fantastically liberating fact, so wildly beyond anything this world can offer that it is actually considered ridiculous by many.
And yet it is the most natural thing on earth. Every lover knows what it is to fall out; to hurt and be hurt; to say things that should never be said, and to be consumed with anger and disappointment. Later, though, comes the reconciliation, the tears, the hugs and the joy. And all the anger and resentment evaporates in that wonderful moment of forgiveness.
But it is never easy; it has rightly been said that ‘sorry’ is the hardest word in the English language. And for some it proves to be too great a challenge; they choose to live with the strange comfort of their misery rather than come to terms with the humility of forgiveness. Tragically, the divorce courts are full of those whose love has all been converted – until their passion has become hatred, and all for the want of saying ‘sorry’.
But the purpose of this article is a little closer to home, for it is the plain teaching of Scripture that forgiveness is a two-way street. If we do not forgive, the Bible says bluntly, then God cannot forgive us.
All very basic and straightforward so far. But, in some strange way, there is a matter of degree here as well. For it is plainly the measure which we use for others that God uses for us. Challenging.
But my purpose today is to take us back to that old ‘No Fishing’ sign, for that is what marks out true forgiveness from its rather pale imitation: tolerance.
As believers we don’t worship a God who tolerates us, despite our revolting shortcomings. We worship a father who loves us with a passion that was exposed to the full force of public humiliation on Calvary. You do not die for those whom you tolerate.
Even the remotest understanding of the cross of Calvary makes it impossible to consider God ever reminding himself of our faults and failings and how we let him down. Because of his great love, it would be tantamount to visiting that dreadful Place of the Skull all over again.
But how is all this relevant to you and me? Very simply in this: we are called to be people of the very same reckless, passionate, abandoned forgiveness that God has shown for us.
No more references to those who have done us down and caused us harm. No more of that worldly wisdom ‘once bitten twice shy’. Rather, let us be known as the people who are too full of love to remember the fall out at all!