Bible Study

Should I Forgive and Forget?

It can be hard to forgive those who let you down and break your trust. Those who intentionally, or is it even worse unintentionally, disregard your view and your feelings and act in a way which is hurtful. Sometimes we are faced with tough choices in how we react and respond, should we forgive and forget?

What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?

Today the importance of being able to forgive is generally recognised as being good for our own mental health and well-being. But Scripture has always been very clear that forgiveness is a godly principle.

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

Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer the principle of divine forgiveness. He also expanded on this in the parable of the ‘unmerciful servant.’ The story of a man who was forgiven so much, his whole debt was cancelled, and his family were spared being sold into slavery. But he was then condemned for being unable to forgive another person for the small amount that they owed him….

As we receive God’s forgiveness, we are humbled by the recognition of His mercy towards us. When we are reconciled with God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are overwhelmed by his love. We cannot begin to grasp the price that was paid, the suffering that was endured, to restore our relationship with God. The gifts that we receive far exceed anything that we could ever give.

To all those who sin against us, we are called to forgive, to draw out of the mercy and forgiveness that we have received. It may not be easy to overcome our emotions. But if we are willing to commit to being obedient to God’s word, His grace will bring an enabling power. The act of forgiveness often leads to a sense of release and an inner peace.

A woman looking reflectively out to sea with the text 'Should I forgive and forget?'
Should I Forgive and Forget?

Does the Bible Say Forgive and Forget?

Scripture clearly teaches us to practice forgiveness out of the mercy that we receive from God. But what does the Bible say, if anything, about forgetting any offences that have been committed against us? Maybe the first question we should ask is, does God forget our sins?

Forgive and Forget Bible Verse

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Hebrews 8:12

This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.

Hebrews 10:16-17

These verses are part of a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34, a prophetic announcement of the new covenant that God would make with His people. This is the covenant of grace that we have received with our restored relationship with God. He is no longer remote but is ever-present and known by His people. Now God’s law, His ways and His will, becomes written on our hearts as we receive His love. And God promises that He will ‘remember our sins no more.’ Forgiveness will become a lasting reality by Jesus’ one-time sacrifice for our sin.

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?

Forgive and Forget Meaning

As I am writing it is my brother’s birthday – a big birthday in fact! If I had forgotten his birthday, the implication would be that I had not acknowledged it in anyway, 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. I will have sent him a card or a gift or contacted him in some way to say Happy Birthday!

So true remembrance is associated with action. 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.
  • 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. But, God removes our sins from us – the psalmist says ‘as far as the east is from the west.’ 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!

Should I forgive and FORGET?

When God ‘remembers our sins no more,’ it means He takes no action, over our sin. He now treats us as righteous. We are born again to experience new life in Christ, and to live 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

To forgive and forget or ‘to remember no more’ means to reach a point where we can acknowledge what happened but without a reaction. The response of hurt, pain, anger, and confusion have gone, the offence no longer has the power to cause us grief. Deep and grievous offences may leave scars. But, they can be a testimony of God’s healing power and a witness to His redemption and restoration.

How do we remember no more? By remembering God’s healing power and transformation, then we remember without pain.

21 thoughts on “Should I Forgive and Forget?”

  1. Thank you for this lesson on forgiveness. I loved the illustration of your brother’s birthday to help me to understand better how an action is tied to remembrance. Great post!

  2. Sharon, hi! Your site is beautiful and your words thought-provoking. Thank God He helps us forgive …. and allows us to remember what we need to so that we become wise for the next time around.

    So good to meet you from Mary’s place …

  3. Sharon, this is such an important lesson on forgiveness. We can, by and through God’s grace, forgive and looking back will only serve as a reminder of His amazing grace.

    1. Thank you Joanne, appreciate your comments – I wanted to share something that had really helped me, to look back without any pain and just see the testimony of healing by God’s truly amazing grace 🙂

  4. I appreciate the way you explained this. One way I have heard it is that He remembers our sin (because, as you said, He’s omniscient), but He doesn’t remember them against us once we believe in Him. Whenever I struggle with forgiving someone else, just remembering how much and how graciously He has forgiven me melts my heart and enables me to forgive. And while we may not be able to forget others’ offenses against us, we don’t have to dwell on them, either. When my mind keeps going over and over something someone has done, I tell myself, “Don’t feed the fire.” I need to stop feeding into those thoughts, remember I have forgiven them, and turn my thoughts to something else.

    1. I agree that we have to choose to forgive the offence, and you’re right sometimes it is a conscious decision, of obedience, not to keep dwelling on it. Some deep grievous hurts, however, need healing and that is the work that God does, so that we can move on from them – and eventually look back and see His grace. For me the thought that God ‘remembers no more’ and has removed the action of judgement from my sin because of Christ, has a greater depth of meaning than saying ‘he forgets’ – thanks for your comments, appreciated!

  5. It’s so interesting to think about God’s forgiveness of our sins in terms of “forgive and forget”. I have always felt guilty when I have forgiven someone’s wrongdoings but have not forgotten it. Why should I? God can forgive and remember. So can we. That won’t deny us from true, unshakeable love.

    1. It is just being sure that our remembrance carries forgiveness so that there is no anger, resentment, hurt or pain but we see instead God’s healing grace at work – all of our life’s experiences are part of our testimony. Thank you for your comments, love the ‘true unshakeable love’ 🙂

  6. This made so much sense. So many of us can not forget something. Meaning have it erased and no longer ever remember it in some way. Humans don’t usually have that ability. But that isn’t what it means. God not remembering means not taking action. Thanks for clarifying this.

  7. The distinction you make between remembering and forgetting is powerful. Thank you. Remembering without action is what I want when I forgive. Also, the prayer at the end is something I need as I am literally living through a hellish situation that has my life in real danger. Please say a prayer for me when you remember my name. Thank you.

    1. Praying for you this morning Yvonne, that you will be secure in the love of God, that you are accepted and richly blessed by Him – be released into all that God has in store for you in Christ Jesus. Amen

  8. Sharon, the Lord has taught me so much about forgiveness over the last few years as I’ve had to endure painful offenses from two different people I love. He has reminded me over and over of the great forgiveness I have received from Him. Forgiveness truly is a gift to receive and give. Powerful message, thank you!

    1. Thank you for your heartfelt response and that this word spoke to your own experience – I am so thankful that we can receive forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

  9. I appreciate your illustration and explanation on remembering. “So true remembrance is associated with action and that is the way the word remember is used in scripture – when God remembers, He acts!” That is very helpful!

  10. I love this perspective on forgiveness, Sharon. God chooses not to remember our sins … so much more intentional and encouraging than if He simply “forgot” about them. 🙂

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