It can be hard to forgive those who let you down, who break your trust, who intentionally, or, is it even worse, unintentionally disregard your view and your feelings, and act in a way which they know will be hurtful and cause you pain. If you are feeling like that right now, you are not alone, I’m sure that in varying degrees we have all been there at one time or another.
Today worldly wisdom recognises the importance of being able to forgive, for our own mental health and well-being, and the call to exercise forgiveness as a principle of life is very clear in scripture:
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
To all those who sin against us, we are called to forgive with the understanding that as we have received mercy from God, and the forgiveness for our sins, we will be willing to forgive one another. Practically it is not always easy, if we have been humiliated, maligned or even damaged by someone, but it is not impossible either. When we commit to being obedient to God’s word, His grace brings an enabling power, and as we forgive we are released and renewed. Forgiveness leads to peace.
“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if anyone has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
This is a message to the Church, how Christians should behave towards one another, recognising that none of us are perfect, that we will all make mistakes, and forgiveness needs to be an ongoing process. We are called to clothe ourselves with qualities which enable us to be gracious to each other, and when necessary to forgive, so that we are bound together with the love of God.
But forget, should we forget the wrong that had been done to us?
This is a question which is debated endlessly and broadly speaking there are two opposing views:
Yes, forget, for our own peace of mind, put it behind us, move on, so that when necessary, and if appropriate, we are able to continue to have a relationship with that person in the future.
No, don’t forget, so that we don’t allow the same mistake or situation to develop or to occur again. Our relationship, if it continues, with that person is changed and will be different now because of their actions.
What does God’s word teach us then about forgetting those offences that have been committed against us?
If the basis of our forgiving others is the recognition of how much we have been forgiven, and the godly principle is to give out of what we have received, the first question we need to ask is, does God forget our sins?
This scripture is part of a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34, a prophetic announcement of the new covenant that God would make with His people :
- God will enable His people to do His will as His laws become inner principles.
- God will not be remote but will be relational with His people.
- God will remove sinful ignorance of Him and His ways.
- God will remember our sins no more and forgiveness will be an everlasting reality.
Scripture does not say that God ‘forgets’ our sin, what it says is that God will ‘remember our sins no more.’ Is the language important, is there a difference between forgetting and remembering no more?
As I am writing it is my brother’s birthday – a big birthday in fact – so let’s use that as an illustration.
If I had forgotten his birthday, the implication would be that I had not sent him anything or acknowledged it in any way because it had not been in my thoughts.
If I remember his birthday, however, the assumption is that I will have done something to show that I have remembered – that I have sent him a card or a gift or contacted him in some way to add to his celebration!
So true remembrance is associated with action and that is the way the word remember is used in scripture – when God remembers, He acts!
- Genesis 8:1 But God remembered Noah……and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
- Genesis 30:22 Then God remembered Rachel; He listened to her and enabled her to conceive.
- Exodus 2:24-25 God heard their (Israel’s) groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham…and was concerned about them. (Which then leads to God’s rescue plan and the call of Moses.)
- 1 Samuel 1:19-20 Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
When God remembers our sins no more, the action that the remembrance of our sin would bring about is removed. God’s ‘not remembering’ is not forgetfulness – He is omniscient, He knows everything and forgets nothing.
God removes our sins from us – the psalmist says ‘as far as the east is from the west’ – an immeasurable distance! When we are saved our sins are completely forgiven by Jesus’ one-time sacrifice and removed from us, we are declared righteous before God and there is no condemnation, we are set free!
God no longer remembers, that is takes any action, over our sin – He now treats us as righteous we are born again to experience new life in Christ, life to the full.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
I would suggest that we need to forgive and receive healing from the Lord, for any offences that we are struggling to deal with, so that we remember no more. When we choose to remember no more, we are choosing to acknowledge what happened but without any action. The response of hurt, pain, anger, shame and confusion have gone, the offence no longer has the power to cause us grief. Deep and grievous offences will leave scars, but they are testimony of God’s healing power and a witness to His redemption and restoration.
Think on this: The day will come when we can glance back to those difficult times, as if looking in the small rear view mirror of a car, just to check what was behind – as a reminder of how far, by God’s grace, we have come. Then we fix our eyes ahead again, as if through the windscreen/windshield of a car, looking ahead at the way forward, the big picture of all that God has in store for us now – we are moving on, into the wide open spaces of God’s grace!
If you are struggling right now with unforgiveness, then take it to God, His heart is to forgive and to heal the broken-hearted.
Prayer – Lord, I recognise that there are offences in my life that still require healing, I find it difficult to think about those events and the person who hurt me without experiencing pain. I choose to forgive, and ask that you will heal the hurt, believing that when we ask according to your will you hear and grant our prayers. I want to be set free from the past, and move into the fullness of life that Jesus died to give me. Grant me your peace, Amen.
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