The last time my mom was in the hospital, six months before she died, I paid particular attention to the sign in the bathroom which instructed us, “Wash your hands for three minutes and rinse them for two.”

I couldn’t help but think of visiting our newborn grandson when he was in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit for five weeks. We learned the routine well: before we could go into the NICU, we had to scrub our hands with soap for three solid minutes and rinse them for two minutes.

The washing part didn’t surprise me but the rinsing did. But when you think about it, the rinsing makes sure that what the soap destroyed (or not destroyed) is completely washed down the drain. 

As I thought about that experience, I thought of I John 1:9. It’s a commonly quoted verse and one of my favorites: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Pause for a moment and think about something we take for granted. If you weren’t so used to hearing the two main points–forgiveness and cleansing–always being given together, don’t you think you’d be satisfied with only hearing about being forgiven? Doesn’t the “cleansing” part seem a little extra, maybe even superfluous? Isn’t the forgiveness the most important thing? Then our sins are covered  by Jesus’ blood and we’re no longer held responsible for them. Certainly, that’s sufficient, right?

Then why do we need the cleansing? 

I wonder if the cleansing represents the fact that our loving Father no longer holds the sin against us. The sin has been neutralized through the confession and forgiveness. But without the cleansing, it’s still there to haunt us. It still remains if it isn’t washed down the drain. Keeping soap on our hands may take away it’s power of germs, but the soap and the dirt is still on us without the cleansing. The cleansing removes it from us. 

Psalm 103:12 tells us, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The sin is gone! Therefore, we don’t need to keep focusing on it and recalling it to mind. It’s gone completely.

Many years ago, I had a little epiphany. It felt like I was always saying to God, “Lord, I did it again!” Of course, I meant some sin that I’d confessed over and over again.

At one point, based on Psalm 103:12, I knew He might have replied, “Again? What do you mean again? I don’t remember what you did before because it’s forgiven. And I’m more than willing to forgive you of this present sin.”

Maybe you realize that you have asked for forgiveness and you know you’ve received it. But it still haunts you. Try picturing the forgiven sin being cleansed–as if you were in the hospital and were obeying the rule of rinsing for two minutes. All the residue is gone now and your sin is forgiven–and cleansed! It’s no longer remembered. It’s no longer there!

And if you try to ask for forgiveness again–just imagine God’s response. “Again? Why again? I’ve already forgiven it and it’s gone because I don’t remember it!”