|Vol. 13 No. 2 February 2011||
Mark T. Tonkery
What kind of records do we keep? Well, we may keep records of the bills that need to be paid each month, or when the oil in the car needs changed, or maybe the birthdays of family members. However, why do we keep records? Well, it is simple, because we want to remember things. There are a lot of things we like to remember so we write them down or find other ways to remember them. Yet, there is one thing the Bible tells us that we are not to keep record of and that is other’s wrongs. Even though the Bible teaches against keeping records of other’s wrongs, how many times have we brought up the past in a disagreement? It is like the one fellow who was talking to the preacher about the troubles in his marriage. The husband said, “Every time my wife and I get in an argument she gets historical.” The preacher said, “Don’t you mean hysterical.” “No,” replied the husband, “I mean historical; she brings up all my past mistakes.” It is tough to live your life with someone who never forgets.
In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul’s instruction on love states that “[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” If we truly love one another Paul reminds us that we are not to remember the wrongs that others have committed towards us, especially when we have dealt with them in a biblical manner as Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20 instruct. What Paul is trying to teach in 1 Corinthians 13:5 is that once we have dealt with others’ sins, then love makes allowances for the fallibilities of others, and is ready to renew the relationship in a loving way. In other words, instead of revenge, devising evil against those who wronged us, or constantly reminding others of their wrongs, we forgive them and strive to move forward in the love of God. This is often hard to do, yet it is a command of God’s Word. Maybe the following illustrations can help us to better “keep no record of wrongs.”
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. However, she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Barton’s reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting it” (Palau).
A couple married for 15 years began having more than usual disagreements. They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month they planned to drop a slip in “Fault Boxes.” The boxes would provide a place to let the other know about daily irritations. She was diligent in her efforts and approach: “leaving the jelly top off the jar,” “wet towels on the shower floor,” “dirty socks not in hamper,” on and on until the end of the month. After dinner, at the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on what he had done wrong. Then, the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same, the message on each slip was, “I love you!” True love, biblical love, keeps no record of wrongs. It releases the revenge, bitterness and wrongs of the past and moves forward in a way that we do not return evil for evil.
Palau, Luis. Experiencing God’s Forgiveness. Portland: Multnomah P., 1985.
It is known fact that all “good sports” are not Christians, in the strictest sense of the word, but every true Christian is always a good sport! I watched a group of “church league” softball players one afternoon, long ago, and I really got an education on sportsmanship and Christianity. During the heat of competition, one group seemed to laugh at all of their mistakes, and generally speaking, those guys seemed to be having the time of their lives, even though they also seemed to be losing. Their speech was good, above reproach, and their attitude attested to the fact that they were good sportsmen.
The group which won (?) the game was representing another “church” group, and to say the least, their conduct and speech was disgraceful. They were constantly bickering, were quick to contest a call that did not suit them, and their use of expletives bordered upon plain ugly talk. They displayed anything but good sportsmanship and Christianity. When an umpire ruled in a way that did not please them, they would fuss and quarrel like a spoiled brat, instead of acting like gentlemen, or as a representative of a “church group” that insisted upon fair play and clean speech.
I am thoroughly convinced that “Christians” must set the proper example in all that they say, and do; and this sort of attitude will reflect itself in their consideration of others, fair play and mature actions. A Christian does not “bag” 12 squirrels when the bag limit is five! He does not load his shotgun with five shells, when the state rule is only three. Likewise, a Christian will not be so petty, or small, as to ruin a perfectly wonderful outing, with the use of unclean speech, biting words or other unnecessary disruptive outbursts. Being with loved ones or best friends should bring out the best in anyone’s behavior and speech. Paul gave his young Gospel preacher Titus a profound truth as he spoke the words of Titus 2:7 to him. “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (Titus 2:7).
It is hard to realize the far reaching aspect of one’s life, and actions. There is always someone who uses you as his prime example in the ordering of his life, and that renders us liable, if we do not set the proper example before him. I was reading a wonderful sermon that was preached by brother Howell Bigham in the “Sad Statements of the Bible” lectureship in 2000, and I was struck by the simplicity of the effect that one’s life could have upon another, as brother Bigham depicted such in his sermon. His illustration of this was spelled out in the following verse, which he used.
The lightest breeze that ever blew, some slender grass has wavered;
The smallest life one ever knew, some other life has flavored.
We cannot live our lives alone, for other lives we chance to touch
Are either strengthened by our own, or weakened just as much.
Someone has said that we talk a lot of religion in this country, but we need to stop long enough for our feet to catch up with our mouths! Is that lots of “talkie talkie” and no “walkie walkie”?