Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forgive and Forget?

Earlier this week, I saw this tweet from Sean:
Sometimes I forgive and forget. But sometimes when I forgive, I must keep remembering to forget.
OK. I may be way off on this, and I've done a little research, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

I think sometimes, the forgetting is harder because we are trying to forget the wrong thing. I think we try to completely forget the event that occurred, rather than forgetting the offense of the event. Many times, when the offense occurs, it leaves scars. Those scars stay with us for the rest of our lives. Let me explain.

Years ago, someone was moving (I'm not sure who... me probably) and a friend was there helping. He was moving something and it hit the ceiling light and it shattered, landed on me and cut my finger, which bled quite a bit. He felt terrible about it (for both my finger and the light fixture). I forgave him. I forgot the offense and never held it against him. But I still remember the event. It's part of my story. I have a tiny scar to commemorate the event. It's actually a fond memory of a friend I haven't seen or talked to in many years.

Jesus was pretty clear that we are to forgive. He himself forgave, even those who were killing him. But he will never forget the event - he died for me. But, he does forgive those of us who put him there, and, if we are repentant, he no longer remembers our offenses.

Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone. Basically, Jesus said a gazillion trillion plus. He never said forget. He never said we had to be bestest buddies with the other person. Just forgive and don't hold a grudge.

In several places, Jesus tells us that we are to forgive others in the same manner our Father has forgiven us. (Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 6:37, Luke 11:4, Colossians 3:13 - I'm sure more can be found). What I don't see in those verses is anything that says when you forgive, you forget it ever happened.

Think about this... if God completely forgot every transgression, would we have the Bible? It wouldn't be nearly as effective if it said, Jesus came to earth to live a sinless life, and to die on a cross... but I don't remember why...

So am I way off here?


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  2. This is an issue that I've been struggling with over time.

    A book that I read that was very helpful on the issue put it this way: forgiveness is a declaration that, despite the offense, you want to continue in relationship with the offender. It doesn't have to involve ignoring the offense, or downplaying the offense. Rather, it's something bigger; it's a statement that the relationship is more important than the offense.

    Having said that, I struggle here, too.

  3. I like "the relationship is more important than the offense". This applies when the offense comes from someone we are already in relationship with. The next hard thing is to feel the same way about a complete stranger. Ah... this "loving your neighbor" thing can be tough.

    Thanks for the comment, Jim.

  4. You are correct in that the Father wishes us to forgive in the same manner as he does. Jesus said, “be perfect therefore as your Father in Heaven is perfect” Matt. 5:48 the Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about loving our enemies when he said this. But the pre-requisite is that you have to have an enemy in order to forgive them.

    Now the Father gave us examples of just how expects us to be like him, in forgiving enemies. He does want us to indeed forget (throw away) the offense like it never happened.

    But by forgetting (throwing it away) however, the meaning is to forget (throw away) the anger and judgment the offense and the offender caused.

    For the Father, sin/unrighteousness separates us from him and causes him to judge us. He is holy and cannot look upon our sin, thank you Jesus for saving us.

    For us, when someone hurts us let’s say, in a vicious way, it often causes us to separate from that person because of our anger and inability to forgive by forgetting, though we may initially forgive.

    Forgiveness is after all a followers’ duty we know this and there’s no margin for error. But being human beings we find a way to hide or hold on to the anger (we think) in not forgetting.

    In many cases not forgetting is a way of keeping us protected from the person or persons that harmed us. We don’t trust that we’ll stay away from them if we truly forgive. But if we don’t forget we won’t return to them and we honor ourselves.

    However, this works against us in that in some cases after the separation the pain grows deeper when we remember it further carving greater emotional craters in our lives as well as causing damage to our relationship with God and others.

    This is where the Father teaches us how to forget (throw away) the offense because as humans when we forget we plunge right back in. “He who forgets history is destined to repeat it.”

    God knows us so the example is:

    Isa. 43:25 I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins… ”

    Ps. 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us… “

    Micah 7:19 “Once again you will have compassion on us.
    You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!”

    In cases of trust being broken intentionally, or foul play that leads to the death of a friendship or worse (God forbid), the remembrance of the person/persons and the event/events may cause us to replay the hurt associated with said the person/persons and event/events.

    It is then we must remember; we forgave the offender and mustn’t give the devil place (legal – authority) to enter our hearts and cause us to separate from God in anger unchecked which is sin.

    The Father does want us to be child-like in this way. “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” He will protect us, even if we forgive to the point we forget.

    Had to put the rest on my blog