One of the greatest promises from God is that He will not remember our sins. Can you imagine what it would be like if He kept every one of our sins in mind? “Oh, there’s that Carter kid again…you know he willfully disobeyed his grandmother when he was only five…he cheated on a history test in fifth grade…he stole a ‘Hot-Rod’ magazine from the pharmacy when he was fourteen…and you can’t imagine how many times he broke the speed limit once he got his driver’s license…and let me tell you what he did as an adult!” God certainly is capable of remembering every sinful thing that we have ever done, but He made a divine decision to put every forgiven sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalms 103 12). God wants us to know that we can approach Him knowing that He has removed our confessed sin to a place where it is forgotten and is giving us a fresh start in our relationship with Him.
Human beings, on the other hand, aren’t so good at forgetting or at least not identifying someone with their worst behavior. I wonder how long it took before people stopped saying “Rahab – the harlot” or Mary Magdalene of always being attached to prostitution. Did Thomas finally become “The Apostle Thomas” and not “doubting Thomas” at some point in his ministry career? And I can think of many others for this list who, like the woman at the well, was forgiven of her sin by God but perhaps still identified with them by her neighbors.
It has been over a year since the Lord took Chuck Colson home. As I read the news articles concerning his death, every one focused on “Watergate felon” Chuck Colson. It was like the last thirty plus years of selfless ministry never happened. Christ will straighten that out as He rewards Chuck for his service, but I want to try harder not to identify my fellow believers according to their worst decisions or behaviors. If God gives fresh starts, I think that I should as well.