“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector’ ” (Luke 18:11).
OUR “FORGETTER” IS A BLESSING, BUT IT CAN ALSO BE A CURSE. Some things it is best not to forget. In the above text, for example, the Pharisee felt good when he compared himself to the tax collector. But his good feelings were ill-founded. Having forgotten the seriousness of his own sins, he had a false self-image.
The sins we were forgiven of. Gratitude for God’s grace means that we rejoice in our salvation. We do not allow our past to drown us in despair. But even so, we must not forget how indebted to God’s grace we really are. Our gratitude (and hence our joy) will always be in proportion to our remembrance of the debt that was erased (Luke 7:40–47). If we forget the sins we were forgiven of, our joy will dry up and turn into the boredom of self-satisfaction.
The sins that remain in our lives. Most of us are out of touch with the amount of sin that still resides in our hearts. It may have been many years ago that we obeyed the gospel and began walking with the Lord, and we may have grown a good bit in the meantime. When we compare ourselves to others, it may seem that we are doing pretty well, but compared to the Lord, it’s obvious that we still have a long way to go. We need to be humbled by the recognition of how sinful our motives often are, even when our outward behavior meets the standards of Christian conduct.
There is nothing about any of us that is not known to God. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12,13). What if God made known to the public everything He knows about us, even the “thoughts and intentions” of our hearts? Who among us would not be disgraced and ashamed?
Thanks be to God for His offer of mercy in Jesus Christ! But if we have obeyed the gospel and received that mercy, let’s be careful in our thinking. None of us has anybody we can look down on.
“The best of us are but poor wretches just saved from shipwreck” (George Eliot).