"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
-- Isaiah 1:18
It was a mistake that would have meant the end of the story for most athletes.
During the 10,000-meter race at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, Finnish runner Lasse Viren tripped and fell after his feet tangled with those of American gold medalist Frank Shorter. Both athletes crumpled to the track. But then Viren did the unthinkable: he got off the ground, resumed the race and caught the runners who had passed him. And then on the race's final lap--he not only passed his competitors--he literally left them in the dust and crossed the finish line alone. Many sportswriters consider Viren's performance to be one of the greatest comebacks in Olympic history.
Maybe your own mistakes aren't of Olympic proportions. But maybe they felt like it at the time. How often have we all made such huge errors in life that it seemed like the end of the world? We thought we had completely blown it. It was all over. And we'd never come back.
Life-changing mistakes can cover a lot of territory. They might involve our personal relationships, careers or spiritual lives...and maybe even all of the above. But the good news for Christ-followers is that we worship a God who not only knows what we're going through, we have a Father who cares enough to literally know the number of hairs on our head! We can also rest in the assurance that He's a God of second (and third and fourth, etc.) chances.
We surely can use every one of them. And since Christ-followers are a forgiven people, we must in turn extend this amazing grace to those who have hurt us. The Apostle Peter learned this lesson after asking Jesus, "How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?" His Master responded, "Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!"
When it's difficult to forgive others after they've offended us, it's time to consider God's patience when we desperately need our own comeback. It's in Matthew's Gospel that we read Jesus' parable about a man who received forgiveness for a large debt, but was still bound in a personal prison of anger. His wounded soul was incapable of healing...and he was unable to release another's relatively small debt to him. That's why it's so good to know that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we're forgiven of a lifetime's-worth of mistakes, failures and shortcomings. And we're also free from their eternal consequences.