We all have shame for things we did in the past. Everyone has made mistakes that they are embarrassed, or possibly even horrified, to admit. We each have a past, and for some of us, that past never leaves the present. We think about it all the time, playing the video in our head over and over again. So how do people find freedom from the past? What can they do to stop remembering all the mistakes they have made?
I heard a story several years ago that gave me great comfort. Now, mind you, this isn’t a true story, and don’t go dissecting every corner of it for theological accuracy. This is merely a fictitious story to illustrate a theological truth:
There was a minister in a small town. His congregation had begun hearing stories about a prophet who lived in the woods. At first, the minister ignored the stories, for he assumed the stories would go away. However, they intensified. So much so, that the minister decided one day to pay a visit to the prophet to expose him for the charlatan he was.
The minister stood in front of the prophet and he introduced himself and said: “I hear that you are a prophet, and you can tell people things that you shouldn’t know.” The prophet responded back in the affirmative. The minister was very frank and told the prophet that he had his doubts, and he had every intention of exposing him. As a test for the prophet, the minister confessed that he had sinned when he was a boy, and that only God knew the mistake he had made. He challenged the prophet to tell him what he had done as a young boy that only God and he knew about. The minister told the prophet he would give him three days and, on the third day, he would return for an answer. The prophet agreed to the terms.
As the days passed, the town was buzzing with excitement, wondering what the minister did as a young boy and whether or not the prophet would have an answer. After the three days had passed, the minister went to visit with the prophet to hear his answer. The prophet affirmed that he was able to communicate with God. He admitted to asking God what this minister did as a young man, and his response shocked everyone, even the minister. The prophet looked at the minister and said he had asked God to tell him the mistake the minister had made and that God had responded, “I just can’t remember.”
Wow! I love that story. Often, we think that God is dwelling on our story, thinking about all the mistakes we have made, but God has essentially forgotten our story. The Bible tells us that all of our sins have been separated from us. In the book of Psalms, we read that our sins are removed from us just as far as the East is from the West, and that at Calvary, our sins were placed on the cross and the righteousness of Jesus was placed on us.
I’m not sure if “God forgets” is the right terminology when it comes to our sin, but I do know for certain that, when Jesus thinks about my past, he doesn’t think about my sin. If God does not dwell on my past mistakes, then neither should I.