How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget!”? In the Message Bible, Proverbs 19:11 says this: “Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.” Since most of us equate forgetting with having no memory or recollection of an offense, this directive is difficult to understand. God can do anything. He can forget whatever He wants, but what about us humans? What exactly does it mean to forgive and forget? Is it even possible to erase our minds? To comprehend this mystery, let’s look at some scriptures that show how God forgives.
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression that God casts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness. This idea drawn from popular Christian lyrics is drawn from Micah 7:19, however, this verse doesn’t even use the word forgetfulness. Listen to what it says: “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” When God forgives, he has compassion on us and he puts our grievances under his feet. The KJV puts it in a different light. He will subdue our iniquities.
Subdue means to subject, to keep under, or to bring into bondage. It’s as if the thing never happened. He never brings it up again. He doesn’t throw it back up in our face when we do something wrong again. We are released from any obligation to make up for what we’ve done. There is no more penance required, no more penalty due and no more punishment served.
But….it doesn’t say He “forgets” them. It says He doesn’t remember our transgressions. There is a difference. Check this out:
Isaiah 43:25 (NASB) says this: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” The NLV says it differently: “I will never think of them again.” The word remember used in this verse comes from the Hebrew word, zakar, which means to recall, to mention, call to mind, to record, or to make a memorial.
Here’s the key: When God says that he will not remember our sins anymore, it means that he will not recall them, he won’t mention them, he won’t call them to mind, he won’t record them or make a memorial. He won’t even think of them again. This is where the confusion occurs for so many of us. We equate “not remembering” with forgetting. And it doesn’t make sense to us because we can’t figure out how we can possibly forget something that happened.
Are you nodding your head at this point? Maybe this will bring relief. Forgetting doesn’t mean we’ve lost the memory—it means we’ve lost the emotional charge related to the memory. We no longer hold our offender responsible to pay up. We’ve discontinued punishment and released them from penance. All remaining penalties are removed.
But how often do we “forgive” and bring the matter up again? Or how often do we make a memorial out of our pain? It’s been said that misery loves company. So does bitterness. Some people enjoy the attention their misery brings. They nurse their wounds and the compassionate interest others show their afflictions. Their bitterness is a love/hate relationship that becomes a constant companion and an addictive consuming trap. Most often their propensity to remain bitter is due to some false beliefs about forgiveness. So let’s go over a few points about forgiveness.
- · Forgiveness is a choice.
- · Forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person’s actions were acceptable.
- · Forgiving another doesn’t release them from the natural consequences of their actions or a legal obligation for restitution.
- · Forgiving is not something we do for the other person.
- · We forgive out of obedience to God.
- · We forgive so that the chains of bitterness don’t destroy our own soul-health.
- · Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to trust the offender again.
- · Forgiveness is required, but trust has to be earned.
- · Huge difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
Let’s talk about some more points about forgiveness:
- It only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile.
- Reconciliation cannot occur without forgiveness, but forgiveness can occur without reconciliation.
- A relationship cannot be reconciled without repentance from the offender.
- Jesus forgives us before we ever ask, but until we repent, we cannot be reconciled to Christ.
Likewise, we should follow Jesus’ pattern. We must forgive before others ask. But reconciliation doesn’t occur until genuine repentance occurs.
I think the reason so many people are hesitant about forgiving is because they think as soon as they forgive, restoration of the relationship is required. That hopefully occurs, but what if the other person’s behavior has not changed?
Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. One of the best ways to keep yourself free from bitterness is to guard your heart. Make a commitment to your soul-health that you will not accept unacceptable behavior. But the greatest committment you can make to your soul health is to walk in forgiveness. You can forgive and release your offenses!
Dear Heavenly Father, I lift up my sister now. Please show her how to release her offenses. Remove the sting and pain of her past memories. When they try to creep back in and gain access to her soul, help her to replace her memories with pleasant thoughts. Help her guard her heart, so that out of it flows love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our
iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more (Isaiah 43:25).
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
Questions to Ponder:
1. Is it easy or hard for you to forget past hurts and offenses? Why or why not?
2. Is it easy or hard for you to accept God’s forgiveness for your personal transgressions? Why or why not?
3. God subdues our sin and treats us as if the offense never occured. How does that influence you to treat others who sin against you or forgive yourself when you mess up?
4. Look over the bulleted false beliefs above highlighted in orange. Which ones have you struggled with the most? What truth can focus on to replace the falsehood?