Forgive and forget . . . are you kidding?
Let’s be honest. As Christians, we often have our challenges with both forgiving and forgetting. At times, forgiving seems difficult. Our emotions are still at a peak and on the scale of 1 to 10 are nearer the 10, right? Most times, forgetting is nearly impossible unless you are getting older and become used to forgetting a lot of stuff. Maybe that’s a fringe benefit of aging, at least the forgetting of offenses.
But let’s be honest with this too . . . as Christians, forgiving is expected. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32) You might want to read that twice. The beauty of forgiveness for a Christian is multi-faceted: It reflects obedience to the commands of God; it is liberating for both the offender and the forgiver; it can move us closer to the heart of God as we contemplate his mercy in how he has forgiven us. The blood of Jesus covers ALL our sins - past, present and future. This is a theological truth many believers fail to appropriate into their lives. At the cross, some 2000 years ago, ALL sin was dealt with. ALL. (And you and I hadn’t even gotten started with our rebelliousness yet!) Though to some this might create an avenue to abuse the grace of God, it affords the freedom for ALL to live moment by moment without carrying the baggage of guilt and shame for our sin, our offenses against God and against others.
Forgiveness takes something away from us too. It requires us to surrender our “right” to get even. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19) What is it about our fallen nature that makes us want to see people twist for what they have done to hurt us? Surely it is evidence of the persistence our fallen nature. It doesn’t resemble Jesus at all. Isaiah 53 prophesied accurately that Jesus did not “open his mouth” or revile against his transgressors. We, as Jesus, can choose to live life with “unbalanced scales” and leave these matters to God with thanksgiving!
Forgiveness takes time, and we as well as those counseling/comforting us, need to acknowledge that. Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will. Often our sincere choice to forgive marches well ahead of our emotions which have yet to catch up. Do not despair in that. Once we have sincerely forgiven others, we can trust God to help us weather the storm of calming our emotions. We can be pretty certain the enemy will try to make them surface and upset us - - even try to convince us we really didn’t forgive the offender in the first place. He’s like that varmint in the arcade game, Whack-a-mole, that disturbs us by randomly popping up. We must whack him down with the assurance we have “forgiven as the Lord has forgiven us.” (Col. 3:13) We might even choose to speak that truth as we do battle.
Forgiveness doesn’t require forgetting. God has said “I will remember your sins no more.” (Is. 43:25) But that’s a God thing. You can “try this at home,” but time and thanksgiving for the depth of our own forgiveness is probably the best remedy. To be clear here, we know God is not “forgetful.” However, he has the capacity (and desire) to put our sin aside, not bring it back to his mind or our own conviction, and he puts it in a vault “as far as the East is from the West.” (Ps. 103:12) Thank you, sir!
Nothing enables us to forgive like knowing in our hearts that we have been forgiven . . . and forgiven much. At times I have wished I could know how wrecked my life was in God’s sight as compared to the brilliance and purity of his holiness and perfection, thinking this would encourage me in my love, worship and thanksgiving to God. But with this thought comes the fear of being totally crushed by my “work-in-progress” life being held up in contrast to His light.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us ALL our trespasses.” (Col. 2:13) The Holy Spirit within us gives us the power to forgive and moves us in our desire to liberally grant forgiveness. Aside from love, which is the “back story” motivation for our forgiving spirit, forgiveness is a quality of God that demonstrates the life of God within us. Think About It.