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Monday, March 2, 2015

What Does the Bible Say, Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?

One of the questions that I get a lot is,  “Pastor, does forgiving mean forgetting?”  I have an answer but before I give it let’s see what the bible says about it?  Whenever someone asks me a question dealing with relationships I always defer to the bible because it’s the manual that God gave to guide us in how to live with one another.  

In Exodus 20:1-17,  the scripture that we call the 10 Commandments, numbers 5-10 are how we are to relate to one another 
Exodus 20:12-17 (HCSB) 12  Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13  Do not murder. 14  Do not commit adultery. 15  Do not steal. 16  Do not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17  Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  
So this is my manual for knowing how I should relate and interact with everybody.
Now to the question.   Does to forgive mean to forget?  Let’s first define the two main words in the question, forgive and forget.
Forgive (verb)
·         to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)
·         to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)
·         to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)
·         Synonym – pardon

Forget (verb)
·         to be unable to think of or remember (something)
·         to fail to remember to bring or take (something)
·         to stop thinking or caring about (someone)
·         Synonyms – disremember, unlearn

To forgive is to stop feeling anger toward someone or about something, to pardon them.  To forget is to not remember or think or care about something, to unlearn or disremember.
 What Does the Bible Tell Us about Forgiving

The phrase “to forgive and forget” is not in the Bible.  The Bible does however, in many places, command us to forgive each other.
Matthew 6:14 (HCSB) “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

Ephesians 4:32 (HCSB) And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Jesus’ comment to Peter when he asked how many times we should forgive implies constant forgiveness without holding it against the one we forgive.
Matthew 18:21-22 (HCSB) 21  Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22  “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.

The Bible also tells us that if we don’t forgive we won’t be forgiven.

Matthew 6:14-15 (HCSB) 14  “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Mark 11:25-26 (HCSB) 25  And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. [ 26  But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing.]”
A forgiving spirit is made easier for Christians when they consider how much God has already forgiven.
Why should we give anybody a clean slate who has wronged us?  Because God, who is our example for how to forgive, does.  He forgives and overlooks everything that we have done and do against Him, through Jesus, so that we can have eternal life and an eternal inheritance.
Micah 7:18 (HCSB)  Who is a God like You, removing iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not hold on to His anger forever, because He delights in faithful love.

Forgiveness is an act of the will and since God commands us to forgive we must make that choice.  We must forgive even if the person who offended us doesn't ask for or doesn't even want forgiveness.
Matthew 5:44-45 (HCSB) 44  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The Problem with Unforgiveness

Here is what I learned about unforgiveness from a recent study that I led for my church’s Sunday adult bible study group.

The person who won’t forgive is the real victim.  We want to be forgiven for stuff we have done because we rationalize that we really didn't mean it or what happened was the result of a bad decision, so of course we should be forgiven.  How arrogant of us to feel this way and then we not forgive.
“Withholding forgiveness does not hurt ‘them’ it hurts you.  Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the person who hurt you.  Withholding forgiveness puts a barrier between you and the blessings of God.  Withholding forgiveness overwhelms you with feelings that the human body was not designed to sustain”.

When someone hurts us it really does hurt and some things are almost too horrible to bear.  Things  like being raped or molested, someone stealing from you, a spouse or good friend betraying you, someone spreading lies about you.  These are horrible things and some of them will always affect us.  But we don’t have any choice but to forgive because Jesus commanded us to forgive and He gave us an example.
Jesus was betrayed by a friend, He was arrested on false charges, He was beaten, made fun of, and finally crucified.  But what did he say?
 Luke 23:34 (HCSB) Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”] ….  
They didn't deserve forgiveness and we didn't deserve forgiveness but God through Jesus did forgive and he continues to forgive us.
Here is a great quote from the book “Overwhelmed:  Winning the War Against Worry” by Noble Perry.  “Forgiveness is like putting a key in a prison door to release someone else, only to discover that the person you are releasing is yourself.

But What About Forgetting?

The Bible says that God doesn’t remember our sins against Him.
Hebrews 8:11-12 (HCSB) 11  And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. 12  For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.  Micah 7:19 (HCSB) 19  He will again have compassion on us; He will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

God having forgiven us treats us as if the sin had never happened.   We that now belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ are assured that He doesn’t hold our sins against us.  Following that example we should, as best we can, act as if it never happened.  Now I don’t believe that means that we must allow the same thing by the same person to happen again especially if it’s something serious.
We will remember the it because it’s impossible for us as human beings to truly forget what others have done to us.  If we’re healthy we can’t selectively remove some things from or memory.  But we can live as if we don’t remember it keeping in mind 

Ephesians 4:32 (HCSB) And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Forgetting is not required in order to forgive.   Because we still remember doesn't mean that forgiveness isn’t complete and total.

 One Final Thought on Forgetting

Think about this.  
2 Corinthians 5:10 (HCSB) For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
God totally forgives, but apparently He doesn't completely erase the memory of our sins.  He will judge every act and every even careless word and our rewards will be based on that judgement.  
That’s a subject for another post.
This from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary2) Motivated by Judgment. 5:10. This important verse may be summarized thus: (1) the plan—we must; (2) the parties—all; (3) the presence—appear; (4) the place—before the judgment seat of Christ (cf. Rom 14:10); (5) the purpose—that, etc. The purpose (1) includes all—every one; (2) recompenses all—may receive; (3) recalls all—the things done in his body; (4) discriminates between all—according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Here’s My Answer to the Question Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?

God wants us to forgive each other just like He has forgiven us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  Once we do what it says in 
Romans 10:9-10 (HCSB) 9  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.;  
God  treats us as though we never sinned at all and doesn’t hold our sins against us. So, in a sense, He “forgives and forgets.”
In the same way when we forgive we should act as though it never happened. We do still remember the offense, and we should learn from it, but to truly forgive, we should treat the person as though it never happened.  I realize that it’s impossible for us to do that on our own however we have the Holy Spirit in us that empowers us, to do what is impossible to do in our flesh.  

The Bible is, of course, you primary source of information from God regrading His plan for you, but He has bless others with the ability to break it down for us so that we can apply biblical principles into every aspect of our lives. 

For more on forgiveness

What do you think?  Can you truly forgive and treat the person who offended you like it never happened?  What about an abusive relationship can you forgive?  Please comment below. You never know how your comments and experiences will bless others.

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