The April 16, 1990 edition of People magazine featured the story of a young man who was in the midst of paying off an interesting sentence for drunk driving. Eight years earlier his drinking and driving had resulted in the death of an eighteen-year-old girl. He had been found guilty of drunk driving and given a sentence of three years probation and one month of community service.
“He got off light,” you say? Well, there was one other stipulation to his sentence. As part of the civil suit the girl’s parents brought against him, the young man had been ordered to send a check (made out to the deceased victim) for $1.00 every Friday for eighteen years.
$1 every Friday adds up to $52 per year, and $52 for eighteen years adds up to $936. Of course the amount of money wasn’t the issue. After all, the girl was dead. The weekly checks were the parents’ way of keeping the young man reminded that he had killed their child. As they said, “We do want him to remember. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want him to accept it — and get on with his life.”
While I can sympathize with those parents’ loss, their quote sounds a bit illogical to me. I mean, it’s pretty hard to accept something and get on with your life when you are vividly reminded of it once a week for eighteen years. It would have made more sense to me if they had stopped at, “We do want him to remember.”
The article pointed out that there had been weeks when the young man had failed to send the check. His reasoning was, “It hurts too much.” That tells us all we need to know about how effective the punishment was. If those parents wanted that young man to remember his sin, that box can be marked “mission accomplished.”
This whole story makes me very thankful that when God forgives, He forgets. Need some scripture on that? Okay, here you go. In Isaiah 43:25, God says:
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my Own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” (N.K.J.V.)
Here’s another one. In Psalm 103:12, David, writing under the inspiration of God, writes:
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (N.K.J.V.)
The phrase “as far as the east is from the west” is David’s beautiful, poetic way of describing the infinity into which God casts the forgiven sinner’s transgressions. If a traveler starts out traveling east and continues going that way, he will always be traveling east. There is no point where he will cross some line and begin traveling west. In the same way, when God forgives sins, He sends them into a metaphorical oblivion and remembers them no more.
Because of all this, the question that each of us needs to ask is, “Have my sins been forgiven and forgotten in this way?” And the answer is: They have if you have authentically believed in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Jesus was God the Son in human flesh, and His death on the cross was Him playing the role of the sacrificial lamb whose shed blood has the power to cleanse sin and thoroughly remove it not only from the sinner’s eternal record but also from God’s own memory.
This means that once you know Jesus as Savior, He will never remind you of your sins. The devil will do that. You can bank on that. For that matter, you can even remind yourself. Many Christians have this problem. But Jesus won’t remind you. The forgiveness He provides is not conditional or probationary, and this should make us want to serve Him all the more.