When is the last time sins of your past kept you up at night or haunted your waking hours of the day?
Recently I heard this anecdote about the reformer Martin Luther. The account written after Luther’s death explained that the devil (it wasn’t clear if it happened in a dream or bodily form) brought to Luther a long list of sins Luther had committed. Upon presenting it to Luther, Luther corrected the devil’s list by adding several sins and then told the devil: “Take up the slate and write as I shall dictate to you. My sins are many; my transgressions in the sight of an infinitely holy God are countless as the hairs of my head: in me there dwelleth no good thing; but, Satan, after the last sin you have recorded, write the announcement which I shall repeat from 1 John 1:7, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin’” (if you want the link to the story, it’s here).
Forgiven and forgotten is a pretty good feeling when on the receiving end. But I’ve found it’s an equally satisfying feeling to forgive.
Earlier this spring I was hurt deeply by the actions of a fellow Christian. I knew I had to forgive but ruminated over the wrong done to me and lack of regret on the part of the other person.
Recently my whole perspective changed. I was in earnest prayer for the safety of one of my young adult children. As I prayed, I was comforted thinking of all the times God protected me in the past. I remembered blessings too numerous to count. I thought of all my sins and the stupid, thoughtless things I have done that God has forgiven.
And that’s when I decided to forgive.
Paul told the Ephesians: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:32–5:2).
And in that one choice the weight and hurt of the situation left. What I had carried for weeks was gone.
In the whole scheme of things, looking at life from the big picture view, the offense was relatively small and diminishes even more in light of how much God has done for me. It is what Jesus taught in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35).
God knew what it would take to jog my perspective. If I’m going to hold on to anything, I want it to be grace—both the grace given to me and the grace God desires me to give others willingly.
Amber Albee Swenson has authored four books, writes an occasional devotional blog, and is a regular contributor to several Christian organizations. In 2011 she started speaking to women with the intent of bringing the Bible to life in tangible, applicable ways.
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