There are many times in life that we have been hurt by others. They have cheated on us, stolen from us, gossiped about us, yelled at us, etc. The question is, should we “forgive and forget?” It sounds Christian from the outset, but does God really call us to forgive and forget?
First, let’s talk about forgiveness. I’ve often said that forgiveness is one of the staples of the Christian life. You can’t be a Christian without the forgiveness of sins through Jesus. You can’t say you’re a Christian and not forgive others. Scripture says God is not forgiving us because we haven’t forgiven others. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” It seems like God takes forgiving others seriously.
Then we move over to Matthew 18. Peter asks Jesus the question. “How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” In other words, Peter is asking, if someone continues to sin against me, do I need to continue to forgive? The reality is if someone is habitually sinning against you, you doubt their sincerity of asking your forgiveness. After a while, you don’t believe them, right? Jesus comes back with an answer that may leave a lump in our throats. He tells Peter to forgive 77 times. Jesus is not being literal here, but is saying that we, as Christians should continue to forgive.
We know we need to forgive, but let’s get back to our original question. Should we “forgive and forget?” We know forgiveness is part of the Christian belief, but is forgetting? Christians are told to follow the pattern of God, so, when we read in Scripture that God forgets our sin, should we follow?
Let’s look at some of the passages that we are talking about. Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, I am He alone who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Psalms 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”
So all signs point to the fact that God “forgives and forgets” right? Actually, this is not true. What we notice about these passages is that God is not necessarily forgetting sin, He is choosing not to remember sin. There is a small nuance here, but it is an important one. It’s not like God fell off His bike, hit His head, and can’t remember that you cursed at your neighbor the other day. God is omniscient (all knowing), and knows all. He doesn’t forget, He just chooses not to remember.
That being said, this is the pattern we should follow. We should choose not to remember people’s sin. Once we forgive them, we choose not to bring it up again, not to hold it against them. At the same time, our memory is part of the Imago Dei (Image of God).
The memory is part of the defense mechanism God has given us. If someone I know continually sins against me in a specific way, maybe I avoid them, maybe I avoid the situation where they continue to wrong me. God doesn’t call us to be foolish and continually put us in harm’s way. When we forgive, we can’t forget, but we can choose to not remember those sins a person has done against us and move on with our lives.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.