I remember a while back my daughter was the flower girl in our friend’s wedding. Of course this necessitated us buying a beautiful and expensive white dress for her to wear in the ceremony. Since little girls love to play dress-up, she wanted to wear the dress around the house long after the wedding. But one day we could tell something was wrong. Emma was wearing a jacket over her dress and it was obvious she was trying to cover something up. A brand new and very obvious stain.
It would be appropriate to interrupt the story by filling you in on a little something about my wife. Keri’s a little bit of a… how should I say it… a neat freak. Not all psychotic or anything, but she definitely appreciates items kept clean and things in their place.
Well, suffice it to say that when she saw the stain on my daughter’s dress she was none too pleased. After the typical conversation of how the stain wouldn’t come out, Emma received something she least expected. She was forgiven! Just like that. No punishment or anger. Just understanding and forgiveness.
As I watched all this play out, I was reminded of how we all try to hide our “stains” at times. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all have stains that make us unclean. And sometimes we’re so afraid of those stains that we cover them up. We hide them and put on a good show for people, pretending we have it all together, that we’ve defeated all of our problems. Sometimes we’ll feel guilty for not having our lives together, for not having a perfect marriage or children who are always obedient. We’ll feel broken if we show our anger or impatience and wonder how God could love someone with so many blemishes, so many stains.
But there was something else I learned while watching this scenario with my wife and daughter. I got to see in action what forgiveness looks like. Not forgiveness with a stipulation or two attached, but a real, honest reprieve of wrongdoing. When Keri forgave Emma, she didn’t hold a grudge or complain about how much the dress cost. She let Emma know that it was ok….done….forgotten.
If we continue reading in Romans 3:23, it says that all who have sinned, “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” His redeeming grace cleanses our stains. It washes us white as snow. It wipes the slate clean and remembers our sins no more. How comforting it is that Jesus accepts anyone. He sees past our stains to our true value. He sees right to our soul and bids us come and he will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).