Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . . Isaiah 1:18
As painful as the consequences of my destructive behavior have been, Isaiah, in today’s passage, provides the perspective that I must start off with every day: In my ultimate, eternal reality, no matter what darkness I have covered myself in, I am washed white as snow by the Father. No matter how I struggle or fail, God has forgiven me.
This is a profound comfort to all of us who have struggled with destructive behavior. How then, do we come to know this peace and forgiveness? The apostle Paul insists that we come to know God – and forgiveness – only through faith. That is, we simply believe in Christ’s atoning death for our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9). Forgiveness is the gift of a loving God, offered freely to anyone who will accept it.
The catch, as Isaiah points out, is that if we claim faith in God, that faith must change how we live. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19). The apostle Paul insisted we are saved, not by what we do, but by faith alone. James, brother of Jesus, added though, that if we truly have faith, it must impact our behavior.
I do not earn forgiveness with my good deeds. I am forgiven only by believing. I would be a fool though, to think that I can simply utter the magic words, continue to follow only myself, and expect the peace of absolution.
This is the quandary in which many of us find ourselves. We long to know forgiveness and peace, but we don’t really want to change anything. We say we have faith, but we never allow that faith to impact our behavior. Then, we don’t experience the peace of forgiveness because we cling to destruction with our actions . . . while claiming faith with our mouths. If we truly desire to know God’s peace and forgiveness, then we must allow faith to change our lives.