…He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. -Psalm 103:10
If you should mark iniquities, O Lord, who would stand?
I have set records along life’s way for naiveté and plain-out stupidity.
If everyone kept a record of my flaws and faults and slights and blights, I’d be the least popular person on the planet.
I have said things to people–blurted them out without thinking–that return to me in the middle of the night and put me to shame.
“What was I thinking?”
“Why wasn’t I thinking?”
Some remarks were trivial, off-handed nonsense, meant as nothing and, as Shakespeare said, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” And yet, in my determination to make sure no moment lacked the sound of my voice, I prated on and on.
I was 22 and we were planning a wedding. On the bus, coming back from downtown Birmingham, I ran into Betty Samples, the lovely hostess at the restaurant favored by our church crowd. We all loved Carnaggio’s and adored Betty, who was the very definition of graciousness.
She beamed. “I have your wedding present here.” And, being the classy gent that I am, I said to this lovely lady, “I just hope it’s not another towel set.”
That was–let’s see now–53 years ago, and I blush to this day, remembering the look on her face. Why did I do such a thoughtless thing? She had gone to the trouble of traveling downtown and spent her hard-earned money for a wedding present for Margaret and me, and I had to do this to her? Those towel sets, and there were indeed quite a few, sustained us for years.
I would do anything to erase that.
Why did I pass along some gossip about a church member? My words circulated through the community and arrived back at my doorstep the next day. I was so embarrassed at saying something so foolish, I denied it and created a plausible theory as to what someone might have thought they heard me say. (Years later, I confessed my lie to the victim and received her forgiveness. I’m happy to say she remembered none of it.)
You don’t have the time (and I don’t have the inclination) for all the goofs and sins of my many years in the Lord’s work.
Short memories. Forgiving hearts.
I have been blessed with congregations of Godly people who specialized in those qualities.
On the rare occasions I get together with a group of friends from churches we served along the way, the “Joe McKeever stories”–that’s what they call them–provide the entertainment for the evening. Each one has a quote or incident to relate, and it’s always told good-naturedly as a humorous incident that has nothing to do with the present. I laugh along with them.
I am amazed that someone didn’t take me out and nail my hide to the barn wall.
I used slang in one church and wore checkered suits in another. I told things from the pulpit better shared in the counseling room (like bedroom advice for couples, if you can believe that?) or omitted altogether.
What was I thinking? I blush to remember.
One has to wonder if there are friends and church members from my past who are harboring hurtful memories of something I did or said, or failed to do or say. Do they toss in a sleepless night and recall those things and still feel the pain? Have they forgiven me? Or, would they forgive me if I knew of this and asked for their mercy? I surely hope no one is doing this, but if so, learning of it would be a blessing to me so I could ask for their forgiveness.
A friend from my past showed up at our church a few years back. Her mother was a member, but I had never made the connection. As we chatted to one side after the service, she commented softly how much I had hurt her at one time perhaps twenty years earlier. She told me the incident. Suffice it to say she was right in being hurt and I had done her an injustice. I said, “I am so sorry. Will you please forgive me?” Her reaction is lost in memory, but I hope she did and was able to put it behind her.
If the Lord should count iniquities, who would stand?
We are all guilty, of course. And we should all cut one another some slack and be generous in showing mercy.
What we should never do, of course, is to “count iniquities.”
There are those who accuse him of just that, of gleefully catching sinners in the act of sinning and adding the infraction to the ever-mounting list of charges against them.
If Revelation 12 identifies Satan as “the accuser of the brethren” before God, and he is that, the opening chapters of Genesis reveal him as “the accuser of the Lord” before the brethren. In the Garden, the serpent said to Eve, “Has the Lord said such-and-such?” When Eve naively answered that that was not what the Lord had said, the serpent responded, “He’s holding out on you. He does not want what is best for you. He’s afraid you will become like him.” He was accusing God of the most human of vices: envy and ill will.
When God revealed his character to Moses, Moses said, “The Lord, the Lord God. Compassionate and gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love and faithfulness. Forgiving iniquities, transgressions and sin…” (Ex. 34:6-7).
He forgives sins and delights in doing so.
On the cross, even as His executioners spat on Him and continuing hurling abuse at Him, Jesus forgave them and interceded for them (Lk 23:34).
For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14).
There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for thy forgiving heart and thy short memory.
Remember not the sins of my youth, and my rebellious ways; according to your love, remember me, for you are good, O Lord.
Is today the day for you to make that phone call, write that email, or send that text and ask for someone’s forgiveness? Is it time to restore a broken relationship?