Monday, May 19, 2008

A Lamb Standing As Though Slain

The cliche "forgive and forget" is pure law, not to mention unbiblical. I can't forget. You can't forget. Let's be honest, it's hard enough to forgive! Moreover, God doesn't forget either. What about Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17? Well, the key word there is "remember", there is no mention of "forget". Further, it is contrary to God's immutable and omniscient qualities to forget. If God could forget, then it stands to reason that His promises of remembrance would necessarily lose some degree of their certainty and comfort.

In the passages from Hebrews mentioned above, remembrance is a conscious act of the will, an act of volition. God says " I will remember...". Nowhere in the Holy Scriptures does it say that God forgets sins or that he has forgotten them. Passages such as Psalm 103:12 speak to the fullness and perfection of God's forgiveness, but in no way to His forgetting.

Legalists and Pietists (pardon the redundancy) read into God's Word a new law commanding that we must forgive and forget like God. Like their Pharisaical predecessors, they place new shackles upon those whom God had freed, binding them under impossible commands and burdening consciences with guilt and fear. No, the faithful need not oppress themselves striving to forget the sins committed against them; rather, the faithful strive to not remember them, and when painful sins are remembered, to remember that forgiveness has been given, first to the trespassed against, and also to the trespasser.

Forgiveness is a selfless, sacrificial act of volition. One cannot be forced to forgive, but forgiveness must flow from forgiveness, just as love flows from love, sacrifice from sacrifice, mercy from mercy, etc. Understood in this way, the revealed truth that God forgives but does not forget can be seen for the selfless, sacrificial act of volition that it is. God forgives despite the burden and the hurt of sin, He bears it willingly and releases you. Does this not make His forgiveness all the more meaningful. He hasn't forgotten your sin, but He forgives you anyway; and His forgiveness is perfect, meaning, He will never bring it up again. Likewise, when you forgive others, you do not always forget -- some hurts you will never forget -- but you forgive anyway, you let it go, you release the ones who hurt you and do not hold their sin against them, because in this manner God has so richly and abundantly forgiven you.

Of course, God forgives you on account of the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And as an eternal mnemonic device of the sin forgiven and the sacrifice that made that forgiveness possible, the Lamb of God still bears the wounds of His atoning death. When the Father gazes upon His Son's wounds He remembers the width and the breadth and the depth of His love for His Son and for you -- selfless, sacrificial love. When we gaze upon those wounds we remember the debt we owed, the price He paid, and the value of the forgiveness we have. We want to, we need to behold those glorious scars, for there is the proof and the guarantee of our forgiveness. We know all too well that God has not forgotten and that by all rights we deserve His wrath and eternal damnation. This is why we remember those wounds when we eat the Lamb's broken body and drink His shed blood -- it is a proclamation of His death, a reminder to ourselves and to the Father that we are forgiven.

The homiletical illustration of the nail in the fencepost is a bit cliched, but in reference to the wounds of Christ for our sin remains powerfully visual. The illustration has, typically, a young person being made to hammer a nail into a fence post each time he or she, say, loses their temper. After a while, usually a long while, the young person begins to lose their temper less frequently; it's easier to control the temper than to continually drive nails into the post. Once the proverbial corner has been rounded, the young person begins to remove nails each day they manage to control their temper. Once all the nails are removed, the young person is directed to gaze upon the holes in the post that remain. The moral of the story being this: no matter how many times you apologize or try to right a wrong, even with the forgiveness of the offended, the wounds, the hurt, the hole in the post still remains.

God forgives, but He does not forget. The wounds of Jesus are an eternal testament to the Father's forgiveness and His selfless, sacrificial love poured out in His Son. Thanks be to God that the holes remain. Thanks be to God that the Lamb stands, alive, victorious, as though slain, still bearing the marks of His atoning, selfless and sacrificial death.

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