Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8

We’ve all done things of which we are not proud; things which we hoped would be long forgotten.

As a consequence, some people live in a nightmarish world, where they are constantly reminded of their faults and failings. So much so, that their memories keep them from their sleep and plague them every minute of the day. But even those of us who have put the past behind them, every now and again are reminded of the things of which we are ashamed. And that can be through someone reminding us of what we have done, or through a seemingly unrelated event that triggers off a memory of something best left behind.

No matter who we are, and where we fit into these two alternative scenarios, the reality is that we have all made mistakes, and we have all done things of which we’re not proud.

And should we be tempted to say “I’m not like that. I’ve never made a mistake. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” we have two notable passages from scripture that we should consider. The first is from Paul’s letter to the Romans: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And the second is from 1 John “If we say we do not sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Whether we like it or not, as far as God is concerned, we all fail. We all fall short of the perfection that he demands. Not one of us can claim to be better than anyone else. In God’s eyes we’re all the same; none of us meets his standards. (And there’s probably something comforting in the fact that we are all in the same boat.)

And that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. It also means we have to live with consequences of our actions. But, having said that, the Bible does spell out a solution.

Because the Bible tells us, that if we acknowledge our weaknesses, we can be free to move on. It’s what we do with our mistakes that’s important. Because yes, we can live in the past, and let our past haunt us again and again, or we can live in the present and every now again be reminded of our faults and failings. But forgiveness needs to be brought into the equation. We need to acknowledge our mistakes, but we also need to bring forgiveness to the situation.

Which is why Paul’s solution to the divided congregation at Colossae were these words of wisdom, “If anyone has a complaint about anyone, bear with one another and forgive.” (Colossians 3:13a). Paul knew that if the Colossian church was to have any future, they needed to put the past behind them. All the infighting and differences had to be resolved. He also knew they had to treat each other as equals. And forgiveness does exactly that.

Now one of the things about lack of forgiveness is that it keeps the wounds open. The result … Anger and hatred grow more and more intense, and the person who refuses to forgive gets more and more bitter. So forgiveness, accepting our failings and putting the past behind, offers a real solution to dealing with past mistakes.

But even then, forgiving others, on its own, is not enough. Because without God’s forgiveness, any forgiveness we give will be incomplete. Yes we can forgive others, and they can forgive us (although others forgiving us back is never guaranteed). But what we need to realise is that every time we make a mistake, every time we leave things undone, every time we fail to forgive, we lose part of what it means to be human.

Indeed, in the book of Genesis, in the story of creation, on the sixth day, we can read, “God created mankind in his own image; he created them in the image of God. He created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27). As a consequence, although we have been made in God’s image, each time we make a mistake we lose something of the perfection that God demands. And that brings us back to the starting point—we all fall short of the glory of God.

But when God forgives us, he restores us back to the way he created us—in his image. And that state not only guarantees our eternal existence with God, but it gives us the model on which we are to live our lives. So with true forgiveness, we need to acknowledge our mistakes, and to some extent live with the consequences, but we don’t have to live with our mistakes constantly haunting us every minute of the day. We need God’s forgiveness. And if God can forgive us, then how much easier is it for us to forgive ourselves.

The Christian faith, then, provides the ideal solution to the problem of the past. Because we’ve all done things of which we are not proud; things that we had hoped would be long forgotten. But it does require the need for us to acknowledge those mistakes, the need to forgive others, and the need to be restored by God to be “in his image.”

Unfortunately, despite that, God’s solution is one that many people continue to refuse to accept. As a consequence, they continue to struggle through life.

So let us today embrace God’s solution, and live life with the hope of eternal life with God, free from any nightmares from the past.

Posted 26th July 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis