Rev. Russ Sommerfeld reflects on Reformation Day
By Rev. Russ Sommerfeld
Assistant to the President for Church Engagement
Reformation Day: Divine Amnesia
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:34
“Forgive and forget” is common talk but not a common walk. Humans are not inclined to “forgive and forget.” As far as we know, it was Miguel de Cervantes in his 17th Century book Don Quixote who said of humans, “Let us forget and forgive...”
To “forgive and forget” is Divine! The Bible speaks of God having Divine amnesia, “forgiving our iniquities and remembering our sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). This striking truth is at the core of this Sunday’s October 31, Christian celebration of the Reformation of the Church in 1517.
Martin Luther had been empowered by God the Holy Spirit to revel with certain joy in the truth of Romans 3:23-24 “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”
Jeremiah’s ancient prophecy took on delightful meaning for Luther. God forgives gross iniquity and no longer remembers sin! These Divine actions are not due to God’s excessive excusing or lapses in memory. God has purposefully chosen to place the ugly reality of human heinousness and evil upon Jesus Christ on the cross. It is because of Jesus, and Jesus alone, that God “forgives and forgets!” And it is by Spirit-inspired reliance in faith upon Jesus that these gifts of forgiveness and forgetfulness can be received!
It was this amazing truth Martin Luther championed with the October 31, 1517, nailing of the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Castle Church door. It is this forgiving and forgetting by God that moves people to rejoice in salvation and provide loving service for fellow human beings.
Only God’s forgiveness and forgetfulness can truly reform us to live with joy in Christ and love for others!