I grew up in the United States but for now I’m spending some time in Asia. When in a different culture, there are always adjustments to be made. There are things to get used to, new things to try, and some old things to go without. Naturally, when you’re a westerner coming to the east, one thing you simply have to learn (for the fun of it if not the necessity) is how to eat with chopsticks. Please note that my very first job in America was at a Chinese restaurant. So when I had my first big meal here in Singapore and my friend told me: “Today, you are using chopsticks”, I felt like I should’ve known how to use it. But alas, bits of meat, vegetables, and rice slipped and slid all over my plate and the table before I finally managed to clamp onto a piece of tofu. My hand cramped up and I knew it was going to take some practice. Failed.
Sometimes we feel like we should know something or be disciplined in an area because of past experience or knowledge. Hence as a Christ-follower, it’s easy to feel as though repeated succumbing to a particularly sin puts strain on one’s relationship with Christ. It’s easy to feel like a failure. “After all,” you might think, “how can I claim to have dedicated my life to Christ if I can’t even dedicate one particular area to Him?” Many people think like this. Some have even taken their lives because they thought they were failures. To be honest, the idea that we don’t measure up to what we’re supposed to be is fair. But there’s more to it than that.
It’s been said that if we did measure up to the perfect standard, Christ wouldn’t have died for us. But He did die. Acknowledging the fact that we often stumble and don’t measure up—the feeling of failure—is just one step away from the sincerest kind of repentance. And that’s just what God wants from us. To feel negatively towards our flaws can lead us to hate sin, and hating sin is a huge part of possessing godly wisdom. In 1 Kings 3, when God offered to grant King Solomon anything he wished for, the new king asked for divine wisdom to make good choices. If you feel negatively about your failures, you’re pursuing a feat King Solomon wished to achieve! That’s great!
Of course, simply wallowing in guilt all the time is no way to live out a godly life. It’s no secret that forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel message and God is merciful. But how do we know we haven’t crossed the line one too many times? How much can God forgive? Let’s see what Jesus had to say about forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asks Him about it and gets one of His parables for an answer.
Since God sent Christ to die for us, we know He is fully aware that we can’t achieve a perfect standard and are in need of forgiveness. According to Jesus’ parable, we are to forgive as He forgives us. He also gave us a number (four hundred and ninety when you do the math), but Bible scholars have accepted that this number shouldn’t be taken literally. Jesus simply wanted to get the message across: we need to forgive a lot.
If God knows how flawed we are, so much so that He sent His Son to die for us, and stresses the fact that we need to forgive each other so many times, then how much do you think He (who never fails and always measures up perfectly) forgives?
No matter how repentant we are, we’ll always mess up sometimes. Even though today I can whip out a pair of chopsticks and clean my plate at ease, I’m still prone to staining my shirt with a slippery chunk of mutton here and there. The beauty of the gospel is that God always forgives a contrite heart. King David proclaims, “You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:17).
Written By Ian Gustafson for YMI