What in God’s wonderful plan of salvation provides such a stumbling block? Christians, who of all people should be the most joyful, humble, moral, and obedient, are the victims of a great epidemic of sorrow, boredom, immorality, and selfishness. It cannot be disbelief, since it is belief that made the Christian in the first place. The only alternative to a lack of belief is forgetfulness. The last time I was gathered with the saints to worship God, and my mind drifted to thoughts about dinner, or football, or Monday’s plans, I certainly knew where I was and what I was doing. I must have simply forgotten.
Forgetfulness certainly makes a good excuse when I promise to loan a book to someone or run an errand, but fail to do so. But, as all recipients of such good excuses know, there really is no good excuse. A note, a string around a finger, or a ginkgo pill may have been all that was needed to remind the promiser of his promise. It will not do for God, either. He, of all people, knows what it means to be tested and tempted. If His omniscience didn’t supply that knowledge, then certainly His brief stay on earth as a human being provided what was lacking. He, of all people, knows that excuses are easier to offer than apologies. But, He chose, rather, to avoid both altogether. Jesus Christ never made the mistake of forgetting.
So, blame my ego, my materialism, my sinfulness, on forgetfulness. But, the problem is, I never should have forgotten in the first place. How could I? I know that this life, this world, is temporary, dull, and meaningless compared to eternal glory. And, yet, I choose to serve reluctantly. I choose to give up much only to tightly grasp the little that God wants most. I move out of my old house, but I don’t sell it. I take that old car stuck in the driveway because it won’t start, give it a fresh paint job, and push it back up in front of the garage. I tell myself that if I ignore it, hide it, make it look a little nicer, then no one will notice.
You know better than that. You can’t really forget. You find it out every time you do have a memory lapse, but then the knowledge of God rushes back into your mind. You were thinking about that stack of paperwork on your desk when all of a sudden you realized you were drinking a small cup of grape juice. God was offering you a brand new car, you decided to keep the old one with the new paint job, and now you have realized what you have done. The trade will happen again when you are standing by the water cooler with a few co-workers, talking about Smith’s unbecoming habits. You make it once more when the little red sports car cuts you off on the way home from work and your words are chosen based on the understanding that nobody will hear you.
We forget several very important things all at once when we persist in making these mistakes. We forget that sin is exceedingly sinful, and was the cause of our condemnation before we were united with God. It got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden. It got a world full of people destroyed in the flood. It got an entire nation of God’s people conquered and taken captive by wicked, foreign nations. Every misstep shows a significant lapse in our memory. We know the stories well. We know what sin has done to us. We sin anyway.
We also forget that God is exceedingly good; infinitely good, in fact. He is so good, so righteous, so holy that He cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of unrighteousness in His presence. But, as His children who are currently seated in the heavenly places, who are granted opportunity to approach Him in all confidence, we bring sin near Him. And, He must deal with the sin. He would not be a righteous, just God if He allowed it or ignored it. So, He must remove it or remove us. Thankfully, God’s infinite mercy causes Him to choose to remove the sin in many circumstances. But, then, that all depends on whether or not we are “walking in the light;” at least according to John. And, according to John, walking in the light is contingent on our willingness to admit our sinfulness, and on our continuing desire to pursue God. A little rebellion, apathy, or, worse, ignorance, can tell God that we would much rather be out of His presence. Even if this is not our intellectual intention, it can certainly be communicated by our choices and emotions.
We forget that we have been cleansed. The short term memory that allows a clean pig to wallow in the mud also allows Christians to “continue in sin.” Perhaps Paul has cured us of the ridiculous conclusion of the Roman Christians, that “grace may abound” when sin abounds, but sin continues anyway. Sin continues when we forget that we were made for something better. Not only are we made for eternal glory, but we are made to live better now. A clean suit not only looks better at the dinner theater, it lasts longer without all the dirt wearing at the fibers. This is not to say that a Christian should necessarily expect a longer life just for doing what they ought to do. Maybe that suit you keep clean is for your funeral. God may call you tomorrow to give up what you have here for something much more glorious “over there.” But, removing the sin from your life will certainly give you a better quality of life, a better understanding of death, and a much better reason to live.
We do not want to forget. We must work on our memory.