Robert is not a theologian; even so, he has a love for God's word and finds great joy in sharing what God reveal's to him through His word.
Is It Necessary for One to Forget When Forgiving?
Recently I was watching a program, I believe it was one of the daily talk shows, and a family which had been torn apart was the subject; an attempt was being made to bring this family back together. If I recall, a daughter, speaking of the wrongs committed against her by her mother, declared “she is my mother, of course I love her; and I forgive her – but I will never forget what she has done to me.” Now this daughter professed to be a Christian and from what little exposure was given of her on TV, I found no reason to doubt her sincerity. However, I do feel rather confident in saying she has a very flawed understanding of the concept of forgiveness.
God’s word makes it very clear that forgiveness includes forgetting. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12, KJV). King David wrote in Psalms 103:12 “As far as the East is from the West, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” As far as the East is from the West is a mighty long ways, in fact, it is an infinite line and you can get any further away than that. We are all born sinners and we will all die sinners; however, for some of us our sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven AND forgotten.
Refusing to Forgive is a Conscious Decision to Remain
This is the example God has given us of what it means to forgive. Man says “I will forgive; but I will never forget.” God says, “I will forgive your sin, and it will be forever forgotten.” I understand that we are only human and that it is very difficult to forget wrongs committed toward us, even when we have forgiven those wrongs. However, for a Christian (or anyone else for that matter) to deliberately refuse to forget a wrong after having professed to have forgiven the individual who has wronged them shows a great deal of spiritual immaturity and a lack of understanding.
I have also heard people say “I forgave them once, but never again,” or, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Again, the Lord has something to say; in Matthew 18:22 He is asked how many times we are to forgive a person who continually wrongs us, “Seven times”? Christ replied “I say not unto thee, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven.” Ok, so we only have to forgive them 490 times, right? Wrong! This is the Lord’s way of saying that we forgive as often as we are wronged.
Who Benefits from the Forgiving and Forgetting of a Wrong?
I think a mistake many people make is in the presumption that forgiving is for the benefit of the one being forgiven, and this is certainly true; however, it is just as necessary, or more so for the one doing the forgiving. Straight from the mouth of our Lord came these words, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but, if you forgive men not their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15, KJV). The Apostle Mark felt compelled to commit these words of Christ’s, regarding forgiveness, to writing, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).
The Greatest Act of Forgiveness!
Listen, the greatest wrong ever committed was when the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, was nailed to that “Old Rugged Cross.” Folks, even though we were not present at the time, we are all responsible for that act of hate and vile disregard for our Creator, the Son of God; however, it was because of His wondrous love for us He allowed it! The most loving words ever spoken, were spoken on that day while he hung on that cursed tree, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” As he hung dying for our sins he asked His Father in Heaven to forgive us for executing him that day. While we did not actually drive the spikes into His hands and feet ourselves, it was our sins that secured Him to the cross. There is a wonderful verse to a favorite song of mine that goes “Yes he knew me, yet he loved me … and while he was on the cross, I was on his mind.”
If we refuse to forget, we’ve not forgiven and bitterness will eventually consume us; we must forgive “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [us], and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews12:15b). When we do learn to forgive and forget, bitterness disappears and life becomes as a beautiful new day with the Sun just rising over the mountains on the horizon.