“Love …keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:5
As Christians, we are not to maintain a “record of wrongs.” We are instructed that true Christian love means constantly forgiving those around us. Yet Paul seems to be advocating here a much stronger species of forgiveness than merely absolving anyone who comes to us humbly apologizing. He wants our forgiveness to be in place before anyone asks for it. For if we wait until they ask, we are holding onto the wrong. We are keeping a record of it, maintaining it as a debit against their account until it is dealt with. This, according to Paul, is not loving behavior.
I was told once that one could get a clear picture of God’s character by substituting “God” for “Love” throughout I Corinthians 13. We have Scriptural authority, after all, based on I John, that “God is love.” Therefore it should be possible to map over to God the behavior of love that Paul urges in I Corinthians 13.
Doing this immediately brings a startling discovery: God keeps no record of wrongs.
For many, this must seem incredible. We have somehow been sold a delusion: that God holds onto our sins until we confess them, as though I John 1:9 were some sort of hand-operated pressure valve that we alone control. Turning the valve, we think, releases our unconfessed sin buildup, and allows God to return us to a state of grace. (Temporarily, at least, until the pressure builds up again.)
But this puts forth a God who is neither powerful (for He depends on us to activate his forgiveness) nor loving (for he keeps a record of wrongs).
One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Psalm 62:11-12
In fact, it puts forth a God who is less forgiving than He asks us to be. Our picture of God must be corrected, then. Here is further confirmation of the radical notion of grace that the New Testament teaches: God has forgiven everything already. The written code has been canceled (Colossians 2:13-14). God keeps no record of wrongs. Our relationship to sin is no longer a judicial one; it is simply a question of unlearning fleshly habits. Nothing will be held against us.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Hebrews 10:17-18
Consider: God asks us to absolve others before they ask. How could we reasonably be asked to forgive more strongly than God does? Therefore, He Himself must already be doing so.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Two things now leap out of this verse:
- God’s love is such that he forgives people who have not asked yet. Christ died for us 2000 years ago, when none of my sins had yet been committed. There is a sense in which Christ’s death operates outside the realm of time. Therefore as Christians we must never think that we have unforgiven sins. They are all forgiven, past and future, in eternity. (Confession is part of a healthy, honest relationship with God, not a means of securing forgiveness.)
- We “were” sinners. What we are now is something different – but not “sinners.” If we as Christians continually return to the nomenclature of our old identity and call ourselves “sinners,” we are no better than the dog returning to its vomit. (In future posts I intend to explore the relationship between the Christian and sin – a study that has yielded still more surprising results.)
“God keeps no record of wrongs.” If only we would embrace what the New Testament says, and reject the life-choking message of guilt!