John Webster once wrote, “Memory is the urgent business of setting before our eyes God’s great act of delivering us from death and giving us a share in his life, (Webster, Meditations of a Theologian, 152).
Christians should be people who have short memories toward those who have wronged us, but long memories toward the depths of our own personal sin. Without remembering the depths of our sin, we will fail to appreciate the heights of God’s grace.
Reflection is a necessary discipline to a healthy Christian life because it reminds us that God has condescended to us in the midst of our sin as a demonstration of His love.
In the Incarnation, Christ comes before humanity in visible form partly to deepen our fellowship with God and with one another. John writes, “[W]hat we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NAS).
We know that God takes our sins and casts them as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12), but this should not imply that we should so easily dismiss our sins.
Paul often recounted in his testimony the nature that he possessed before he was transformed by the gospel. Yet he assures us that we who have believed stand under condemnation no longer (Rom 8:1).
Though we are grateful that the Cross of our Lord has removed the curse of sin from us, we should not think that we should fail to reflect upon the sins from which God has saved us.
If we fail to remember the depth of our sin, we will certainly fail to appreciate the height of God’s grace toward us.
There is a difference between those whose reflection upon sin would bring despair and those whose reflection upon sin ends in delight.
For the former, reflection never moves beyond human depravity. Those who reflect upon their sin to the point of despair are caught in a reflection that is anthropocentric. Even though this reflection recognizes human sin for what it is, it fails to recognize God’s grace in Christ.
For the latter, one quickly moves from despair to delight. Delight, not because of our sin, but because of God’s grace. There is a genuine sorrow over sin, but this sorrow leads to rejoicing; rejoicing because–moving beyond sin–it recognizes that God’s grace has overwhelmed man’s sin.
In other words, if we reflect upon sin apart from God’s grace, we are led to despair, forgetting the true hope for our sinful state.
On the other hand, if we are too quick to forget our sinfulness in order to focus upon God’s “forgetfulness,” we will lose the reason that we stand in need of grace at all.
For Christians, it is wise that we return regularly to the depths of our sinfulness through reflection, but we dare not stay there. Through moving from reflection upon sin to reflection upon God’s grace toward us in Jesus Christ, we will grow in holiness as God’s measure of grace continually overcomes the depths of our sin.
The result will be a more humble yet joyful Christianity. Who of us would not welcome that?