Forgiveness, The Chance to Start Over

Forgiveness, The Chance to Start Over

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Mar. 9, 1994)

Some Things Can't Be Fixed

Let's face it. Some situations cannot be put back in their original state. Eggs can't be unscrambled, and some of the messes we make in the course of a lifetime can't be repaired.

Some marriages are broken forever. Some criminal deeds entail jail time that has to be served. Infection with HIV doesn't go away with time. And some of our deeds (e.g., drunk driving) have imposed their own cruel penalties that can never be reversed.

Because of situations such as these, many people despair. They don't understand that God gives people the chance to start over.

Science fiction has dreamed of time-machines in order to give us fresh starts on events. But even God cannot undo yesterday, erase the fact of what has happened from history, and let one of us relive wasted days or reclaim lost opportunities. You cannot have back that one awful day or hour that has been responsible for so much horror and pain for so many.

It is possible, however, for the past to be forgiven, overcome, and overshadowed.

Saul of Tarsus could not relive that period in his life during which he blasphemed Jesus and persecuted Christians. He could not bring Stephen back to life. But he could acknowledge his sin and receive Christ's pardon. He could use the remainder of his life to the glory of God. He could even "forget" the past by virtue of the bright hope he had for eternity (cf. Phil. 3:14b-16).

Having experienced a "fresh start" in his own life, Paul was able to write with intense feeling to others about the reality of newness of life in Christ Jesus. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17).

The fresh start all of us need is not a time-machine experience that lets you undo the past. It is forgiveness and release from guilt. It is permission to move on with your life from this point. It is God's Spirit empowering you to overcome and overshadow a dark past with a bright future.

Remorse, faith, and baptism put one's feet on a new path. Once walking in darkness, one now walks in the light of God's grace and constant forgiveness. Challenge, progress, stumbling, success, disappointment all will be part of the experience. But there is the assurance of a crown of life at the end for those who keep walking with Jesus. "If you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:10b-11).

No, you can't fix the past. That's why we must all be open to the wonderful work of God in our lives. He knows what to do with the past in order to free us of from its burdensome hold.

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