Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Forgive & Forget?

~ Have You Been Told It’s Not Enough to Forgive? ~

God expects us to use good judgment. Robert E. Lee is reported to have said, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. We should learn from our mistakes. A wag has commented, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

A Troublesome Phrase  ~  One thing that irks me a lot is the phrase, “You haven’t really forgiven someone if you haven’t forgotten the issue.” Excuse me, I don’t think so! God gave us memories and He intends for us to use them. If anyone can find a valid Biblical basis for that concept, I would love to hear from you.

It is my belief that we should be able to forgive someone’s actions but that it takes time to regain trust and confidence in the offending party. In other words, often there are consequences to negative actions against one another. Since we are all sinners, we all provide others with opportunities to forgive us.

The Source  ~  If we assume good intentions when people use the phrase “forgive and forget,” we might ask where does the notion come from? The answer is simple, Christians are to become like Christ and there is a well-meaning, though somewhat misguided, part of our Christian doctrine which emphasizes Christ’s “forgetfulness.” 

Much of our past and current doctrine comes from the hymns and songs we sing. Consider this great old 1800s hymn by Sydney Smith:
I’ll give you a piece of good news today,
    My sins are remembered no more;
For Jesus has taken them all away,
    My sins are remembered no more.
They’re forgiven, forgotten and buried and gone,
    My sins are remembered no more;
They’re atoned for and covered by God’s dear Son,
    My sins are remembered no more.                        

While this hymn presents a great truth (when properly understood), it can easily be misunderstood. Certainly the words are in keeping with Scripture. For example,
“Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17).  

The Paradox  ~  All Scripture needs to be interpreted through the lens of all other Scripture. Concerning the nature of God we know from many portions of Scripture that He is omniscient (all-knowing). (That is a given and we will not take time today to explain or defend that position.) If God were to forget, in our human sense, then He would suddenly not know something and therefore would no longer know everything!

The Reality  ~  The solution is really quite straightforward. Verses such as Hebrews 10:17 would communicate better to us in our language if they were worded such as “Their sins and iniquities I will hold against them no more” or “The consequences of their sins and iniquities will be eradicated because of the blood of My Son—Jesus Christ.”

Correct Actions  ~  After sincere repentance by the offender, should we forgive the offender? Absolutely. Should we feel guilty because we remember an offense against us? We should not continue to hold bitterness or anger towards the offending party and we should try to regain the full relationship as it was before the offense was committed.  Will we ever truly forget the offense? In many cases we will, while in other situations with deep wounds it may take years (or never) to completely forget. Meanwhile we are to love as we are loved, to seek to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to let go of bitterness, resentment, and revenge. 

Complications  ~  What if the offending party has never sought forgiveness with a truly repentant attitude? This is much more difficult, but the right path for the Christian is the same.

The Bottom Line  ~  Since God sent His only Son to the Cross in order that you might be forgiven of all your sins, how can you not forgive a sinful act done to you by a fellow sinner? 

additional comment:  On November 16, 2010, Abundant Life Now posted a somewhat related topic “Does God Change His Mind – The Answer Might Surprise You.”

~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW


  1. A good word indeed. We may not be able to forget, but forgiveness must be total, just as Christ has forgiven us totally.

  2. Thank you for your comment.
    ~ BloggerBob

  3. Thanks for the encouragement.
    ~ BloggerBob