We all love to keep score.
When my wife and I play games, I usually keep score, and she vigilantly ensures that I have I written down her points for each turn. During the World Cup, no matter what else I’m doing, I check the score of a game I’m following (if I can’t watch it) as often as I can. I have a friend who jokingly says that his golf improves when he keeps score. Two of our international “kids”–some of the young couples from around the world that we have grown to love as our own children–have a running competition with us. When either of our wives makes a language error–spoken or written–we husbands will lick our index fingers, stroke the air and say, “That’s one for the guys.” And vice versa.
Sometimes we forgive the same way.
On how many occasions (I’m keeping score as I write the question!) have mothers said to their children something like, “That’s the third time today you’ve walked across the floor with mud on your feet!” Even the warning, “I’m not going to tell you again!”, is a scorekeeper’s phrase.
Husbands and wives are notorious scorekeepers. In many marriages, spouses start during the honeymoon and keep a running tally of sins and shortcomings throughout the relationship. It’s as if they’ve replaced the ceiling fan in the bedroom with an electronic scoreboard.
Adolescents have mastered the art of keeping score, and much of the pettiness of their relationships demonstrates this.
God doesn’t keep score. Psalm 130, one of the hymns Israel sang when they went up to Jerusalem to worship, contains this verse (v.3):
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
What if God did “mark iniquities”? What if He did keep score? As the psalmist observes, none of us would have the slightest chance of forgiveness.
Do the math. Suppose you thought only one evil thought every day from age 3 to age 83–covetousness, anger, lust, hatred, whatever. That’s eighty years of 365 days, plus an extra 20 days for the leap years. According to my calculations, that would leave you with 29,220 sinful thoughts for which you would have to answer. And that’s only one sin, once a day.
But God doesn’t carry a score card. To use another analogy, when we know Him and come to Him sincerely asking for forgiveness, our sins are not stored in a folder under our names, where the number of filed items is posted at the bottom of the screen. Instead, they are “permanently deleted”. And if we have trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we have the assurance that all of our sins–past, present and future–are forgiven for all eternity. What confidence and liberty that brings!
If we are to forgive as God forgives, we need to throw away the score card.