It still amazes me how easily children fall out with one another. One does one little thing to offend the other, then there is retaliation on the part of the other. Then there follows an escalating process of ‘tit for tat’ until one ends up in tears. But I am also amazed how little time it takes for children to forget the whole thing and get back to playing together as if nothing had happened. Not only has the offence been put aside, but it has been truly forgotten. Reconciliation seems to have come about so easily
When we become adults, we are not so good at reconciliation. We may manage to put the offence aside, in some measure, but it is much more difficult for us to forget that it ever happened. We may wish that we could blot it out from our memories, but, we soon realise that we cannot exercise such control over our memories.
But when God says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31: 34). He actually means it, and He is able to do it! Yet God does not forget anything as we often forget things. So how is He able to say, ‘I will remember their sin no more’? Because He is able to do something which is to our minds amazing and even incomprehensible, that is, He can choose not to remember! And that is the end of the matter.
Does this mean that He passes over sin and forgets it and so reconciles us to Himself. No, He cannot do that. Why not? Because He is a righteous God. What does that mean? It means that it would be utterly against His nature to pass over sin without the full punishment being paid. Does that mean we can never be friends with God? No, because God in His love has done a wonderful thing. We read in Romans 5: “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son”, a reference to the death of Christ, the Son of God, on the cross of Calvary. Christ there suffered the full penalty for all the sins, past, present and future, of all who receive Him as Lord and Saviour. They are “reconciled to God by the death of His Son”. They are irreversibly RightWithGod and the friends of God forever.
This is the gospel, and here the beauty of Christ’s reconciling work shines forth. The christian has a banner over him: “reconciled to God”. He loves God and all things to do with him. His heart leaps at the word, ‘reconciliation’. Especially when he thinks that his reconciliation to God is rooted in righteousness, and therefore, unassailable.
Of course this relationship to God will produce a sensitivity to the things that offend God. It is not that this is going to add to our salvation. Nothing can be added to it; it is forever complete and perfect. It is rather that this new relationship is a relationship of mutual love, and the christian is always grieved at his own sin, and wants to go to God confessing his sin, and seeking repentance (turning determinedly away from all sin) and forgiveness, so that he can enjoy God with a clear conscience. This does not mean having a perfectly spotless conscience. No sinner in this world can have that. What it does mean is what Paul strives for in Acts 24:16: “This [being] so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offence toward God and men.” (Acts 24:16). The believer should have no difficulty in knowing that there is some offence on his conscience, which he needs to confess and seek forgiveness and cleansing for.