Love. It’s probably the most written about topic in history; more than any other it has provoked men and women to write beautifully, chaotically, scarily, emphatically, dejectedly, emotionally, angrily, happily, disdainfully, jubilantly and everything in between. Love captures the human heart like nothing else.
It was love, Homer tells us, that drove Menelaus to make war on Troy. It was love that inspired Byron to write so eloquently, Anna Karenina to hurl herself upon train tracks, Debbie Harry her heart of glass, and Eagle Eye Cherry to earnestly wish he could save tonight.
Love captures the human heart like nothing else.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul writes a beautiful and poetic description; the words he used have came to be at the root of the way that we define love itself. One of the most striking statements he makes is that love keeps no record of wrongs.
A subconscious tally?
It sounds pretty simple, really, love keeps no record of wrongs. Remember all those times your friends have upset you? Yeah? That’s the problem. Love, pure and true love, makes no record of wrongs and that is easier said than done.
I have friends who I love dearly, friends who I’d do anything I could for, but can I truly say I don’t remember the times when I’ve felt let down or wronged by them? That’s a challenging question. I don’t actively think on those times but all the same if someone was repeatedly to do something that hurt? It would call back the times it had happened before.
Subconsciously, we often keep a tally of wrongs – a little mental list of the things that have hurt us. True love, Paul teaches us, keeps no record of past wrongs.
Often, the only way to model a characteristic is to first see it. If we want to learn what it is truly like to keep no record of wrongs? We need someone to model our self on in that way, we need a character example. Thankfully, up steps God.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
– Psalm 103:12
God has taken everything that we have ever done and launched it so far from us that it is irretrievable; the Psalmist does not speak of east and west as fixed points but rather as they truly are – the opposite ends of a scale that man cannot measure. Like George Clooney in Gravity, once momentum pushes you out into space you continue for eternity.
In the grand scheme of things we must cast our minds back two thousand years to a story we’ve all heard, to an innocent man convulsed in the agonies of a torturous death. There is this awe-inspiring moment when, gasping with pain and struggling for breath, He uses his failing energy to say “forgive them, father, for they know not what they do”.
East and west … the opposite ends of a scale that man cannot measure.
Our mental picture of the scene has him forgiving the Roman soldiers who flayed Him alive, the guys who drove nails through His wrists and ankles, the baying mob who demanded Barabas be freed and He be taken to His death. Actually? He’s forgiving us too. In that moment He is taking our record of sins and saying that it no longer counts, tearing it up, taking our punishment and our pain. Our sins put Him there and He chose to forgive them, to make them of no account. When we look for a character model to inspire us there can be no greater.
Record destroying for beginners…
So how does this work for us? Flawed and imperfect human beings with memories that at times seem beyond our control, that flicker through our head when we had demanded they erase themselves. It’s not always easy. When it comes to those we love the most we may willingly lay aside wrongs but we’re not just called to love our closest friends, we’re called to love everyone.
The Greek word Paul uses here is logizetai and it stands for counting, calculating, recording, and holding to that record. I haven’t learned how to erase memories, if you have then please share the secret, but I can choose what to do with them. In the imperfect present, when those memories arise, I can choose to be someone who refuses to hold people to those things.
We’re not just called to love our closest friends, we’re called to love everyone.
That means not mentioning wrongs, even in jest. It means not thinking “if they do that again”, not carrying a wounded feeling around and telling others about it. That means forgiveness, total and complete and continuing. It means when we awake and feel the pain of a past wrong we must choose once again that today will be a day when it is forgiven and not held against the person.
I believe that as we do what we can do, as we do the best that our imperfect selves can do, the redemptive work of Christ will continue to perfect us in love until we can truly keep no record of wrongs. As Paul writes in another of his letters, this time to the church in Philippi: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”