Forgiving and Forgetting the Unforgettable
Forgive and forget people like to say, really it’s not that easy. Most of us can forgive but we struggle to forget. As long as we don’t forget it is easy to take back our forgiveness and develop bitterness. So how do we forget when someone has hurt us deeply? My answer may surprise you but I don’t believe we can forget. So if I don’t believe we can forget what is the point of this article? Well, let’s look at it from a biblical perspective.
Contrary to popular belief God does not forget our sins. He simply chooses not to remember our sins. There is a big difference between the two. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) It is clear in this passage that i s not that God is forgetful but rather not to remember our sins. Since we are commanded to forgive as God did and for Christ’s sake it is important for us to understand how God forgets or is able to not remember our sins.
God is NOT Forgetful. There is a HUGE difference in forgetting something and choosing not to remember something. To forget is to actually lose a memory. Forgetfulness is a sign of weakness or human frailty. When we forget something it is not because we purposed to do so. If you forget where you put your car keys that is not a sign of virtue but of weakness. For God to merely forget our sins implies a senile or frail God who just CAN’T remember what we did. That is not the truth. Our sins are not forgotten by God, rather He chooses not to remember them. In fact to choose not to remember takes abundant strength and character which certainly God has. The Bible says that our sins and iniquities are remembered no more. What does that really mean? It means that God has chosen not to bring our sins back to His thoughts again.
Whenever I disobeyed my dad he would discipline me so that I knew that what I had done was wrong and hopefully I would choose not to do it again. It was never fun but it as not brutal either. The one thing I remember the most was the horrible feeling of having disappointed my dad. When he was finished he would leave me alone in the room with my thoughts of what had just happened. After a few minutes he would reenter the room. I was still focused on the infraction but inevitably my dad would have two baseball gloves under his arm and a baseball in his hand. He would throw me a glove and say, “Son, let’s play catch.” We would go outside and throw the baseball as if nothing had ever happened. After awhile I realized that he was not thinking of what I had done. It was not on his mind. He had moved on and chosen not to remember. He never brought it up again even the next time I disobeyed. (and often there was a next time)
If it be true that God does not forget but chooses not to remember, then there is several things we should learn from this and which we should apply to our own lives.
- He chooses not to bring it to mind again. God has chosen to think of us not for what we have done but for what His Son did. God never holds a grudge. If we apply this then we to are to make the same decision that God has made. God chooses not to remember for his Son’s sake and we are commanded to do the same thing. We are to think of others in light of what Christ has done for them.
- He chooses not to remind us of it again. The Holy Spirit cannot convict us of something that God has chosen not to remember, therefore guilt is not of God. Then who is it from? The answer should be apparent. It is of Satan. The Holy Spirit certainly cannot convict us of something God has chosen not to remember. We use guilt as a tool of manipulation. Guilt is not in God’s tool cabinet. Conviction for unconfessed sin is but never guilt. A parent who reminds a child of the past infraction is not God-like. A friend who cannot help you clean up in the selection committed against them by their is not behaving God-like. A past infraction against brought in the future is why you can’t stop thinking of what was done to you. God chooses never to bring it up again.
- He chooses not to use it against us the next time we sin. God does not allow a dam of past failures to be built so that every time we sin we have a bigger obstacle to overcome. God never tallies our sins and reminds us that this was the 273rd time we have done this. He has chosen not to remember the lat 272 times so that He can deal with this one. We love to count the times someone has sinned as some sign that they are a habitual sinner. Well, guess what, we all are. Yet in God’s character He chooses not to allow that thought to come into His memory. After all, he is not looking for excuses to turn us away, but for ways to draw us near.
- He chooses never to assign blame again. The blame has been assigned. It was put on my Saviour. God does not play the blame game with His children. How could He if He has chosen not to remember our sins? It is wrong to assign blame for something that we supposedly have forgiven. That is where victims come from. They say they have forgiven but they are still assigning blame long after a person has hurt them. God does not do that. The blame is on Christ so he never assigns it to us again.
- God’s forgiveness is not God forgetting but God not remembering. Ultimately that is really the truest and purest definition of forgiveness. When God says He forgives He is actually saying, “I have chosen not to bring this to mind again.” Likewise, when we forgive someone we are not to bring it to mind again. We are to let go of that hurt. Every time we talk about it we bring it back to our minds. If you say you forgive but you keep bringing it to mind you are not practicing biblical forgiveness.
- That means that if we are to forgive as He did then we too must choose not to remember. What does that mean? Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I will forgive you but I won’t soon forget.” They did not forgive. Forgiveness is not merely dismissing the charge against another. It is choosing not to bring it to mind again. Now that is a tall order. How in the world is that possible? The same way it is possible with God. We must extend mercy. How in the world can we do that? What if I we don’t feel merciful? Well lucky for us mercy is not a feeling. It is a characteristic of God. He is the source of it so we must get it from Him. How? “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16. We get it from God. We must boldly charge into the presence of God and obtain it.
- God obtained (won) the right to show mercy. The word obtain is not a passive word. Webster’s definition is, “to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort.” Look at how it was used in I Corinthians 9:24, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” It means that we have won something for which we have fought. Have you ever considered the fact that God had to pay a price to show mercy. Even God could not give mercy without a price to obtain it. Mercy was obtained through the ultimate price of His Son. God won mercy for us and we must win it in order to give it to others so that we can choose not to remember their sins. The act of not remembering is a purposed fight. It is not passing fancy. Strive to not remember what someone has done to you. You must be is willing to work at to obtain it as God was
- Mercy is the prize and grace is the jewel of that prize. The Bible says we obtain mercy and find grace. Where was grace? Grace is the jewel in the ring of mercy. We obtain mercy from God and find grace encased in it. Our challenge is that we are looking for the grace to forgive and we cannot find it because we have not found mercy. Do you want the grace to forgive like God does? You must go and obtain mercy and the grace you need will appear. It is because of God’s mercy that we can experience God’s grace.mercy always precedes grace. How do we obtain mercy? We prevail in prayer for it. That memory you cannot forget will not fade away unless you are willing to boldly approach God’s throne to find mercy.
- The mercy needed to not remember another’s sins comes from being full of mercy. Matthew 5 says that we shall obtain mercy by being full of mercy. What does that mean? Reason with me. In Matthew 18 Peter asks the Lord how often they were to forgive a brother. Jesus told the story of one who had been forgiven of a debt more massive than he could ever repay, but then went to one who owed him a bit of change and showed no mercy to him. Please note that he begged for patience but received mercy. Rather than being full of the mercy that he had been granted he was filled with his own desire to find a way to repay what had been forgiven. Jesus even said this in the final words of this story when he said, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” From where did he say we should forgive? He said from our hearts. If the heart is full of the mercy that has been extended to us then we will have obtained the mercy needed to forgive others. Let me take it one step further. The punishment for not giving mercy is torment. People who are living in bitterness because of what someone has done to them in the past are being tormented by their own lack mercy not by the act committed against them. Therefore, the mercy from the offense is a byproduct of the mercy bestowed on the one who committed the offense.
- God has released us from our debt by His mercy. In other words he has chosen never to bring it to mind again. As we are filled with the realization that every time we come to Him for mercy for our sins we receive the grace we need to give mercy (forgiveness) to those who have sinned against us. We choose not to remember their offense against us because we know that God is not remembering our offenses against Him. He didn’t forget them. He chose to forgive them and to remember them no more.
- Even God found freedom through his ability to show mercy. Don’t miss this thought. God was bound by his own justice to hold our sins against us. God could not just simply forget anymore than you or I can do so. There had to be a plan that allowed God to be free to show mercy to us. Christ made it possible for God’s mercy to be extended to man so that God could be at peace with man not just so that man could be at peace with God. God made peace first. Imagine the fact that God had to find peace with those who have violated his holiness. That should make it much easier for us to do the same for one another. But to do so we must do exactly what God did. What did God do? He satisfied is justice with mercy through his Son. We are commanded to do the exact same thing. If you can’t get over something that appears to be unforgettable you are the one who must find peace by extending mercy. That only takes place when your mercy is great enough to choose to remember that sin or offense no more.
Let’s face it, there are so many people who are having a struggle with this matter bitterness which is nothing more than their inability to forget what someone has done to hurt them. God expects, no demands our forgiveness to be the same as His in that He has bestowed upon us His marvelous grace. While we cannot forget what others have done to us, we can obtain mercy for the offender through the price paid by God’s Son. We are to boldly come to His throne to obtain mercy. In so doing by his power we can choose not to bring those sins to mind again. Our hearts are to be filled with that mercy so that we give it to others and thus receive deliverance for ourselves. In so doing we choose not to bring the sins of our brothers to mind ever again, nor should we allow others to do so. If God has done this through his son then we too should be able to do so. First we must decide that it is in the best interest of God, ourselves and others we love to do so. Remembering is a detriment to everything and everyone else in our lives.
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