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I WILL FORGIVE, BUT I NEVER FORGET
Victor M. Eskew
As Christians, we understand and appreciate what is means to be forgiven of our transgressions. We were sinners (Rom. 3:23). We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Even so, God chose to provide us a way of forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. “”In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). When God forgave us, He also promised to forget our iniquities as well. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12).
Since we have been forgiven by our heavenly Father, we have been charged to forgive those who trespass against us. In Luke 17:3-4, we have these words of Jesus recorded for us: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. and if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” When we forgive, however, we often find that we are not like God. We cannot forget. In this article, we want to consider two thoughts. Why do we find it easy to forgive? And, why do we find it so hard to forget?
Let’s consider why it is so easy for us to forgive others. First, we are commanded to forgive. We know that obedience is essential to our salvation. Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). Only those who do His commandments will enter in through the gates into the eternal city (Rev. 22:14). None of us want to be lost. Therefore, we submit to Christ’s commands, one being the command to forgive our debtors, in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:24).
Another reason it is easy to forgive is because we know that our forgiveness is conditioned upon forgiving others. Jesus taught this lesson in His Sermon on the Mount. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). No one wants his sins to meet him in the Judgement. We do not want to be lost just because we would not forgive someone of their trespasses against us. Thus, we readily offer forgiveness to others.
A third reason it is easy to forgive is because we have a desire to be Christ-like. Even on the cross of Calvary, Jesus had a willingness to forgive His enemies. His first words spoken from the cross were: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We long to be like Jesus. In many ways this is difficult. Offering forgiveness to another, however, is a simple matter. All we have to do is release one of his debt.
On the other hand, when we think of forgetting the sins another has committed against us, we cringe. Why? First, it is hard to forget because it is impossible. When another harms us, the evil deed is forever locked in our mind. Yes, we may put it aside for a few minutes or days, but we can easily recollect the sin another has committed against us. Perhaps it is here that we need a better understanding of what is means to “forget.” Forgetting does not involve erasing the deed from our mind. It does mean that we will never bring the deed up again once it has been forgiven. The person is no longer in debt to us for that sin. Yes, we know that it was done, but the individual will no longer be held accountable by us for that transgression. We will never say these words: “But I still remember what you did to me,” to that individual. The past is gone. It is forgotten.
This, however, leads to another reason why it is so hard for us to forget. Perhaps we do not want to forget. We do not want to put the past behind us. We want to be able to open the folder and remind the individual about what was done to us. Sometimes, we use the past to make a person feel guilty. Sometimes, we use the past to “justify” the evil deeds that we commit. At other times, we use the past to manipulate the individual. The person’s past transgression benefits us. Therefore, we do not want to let them go.
Another reason we do not want to forget is because we believe that if we do we make ourselves vulnerable to more hurt in the future. We will remember what led up to the violation. We will remember the transgression itself. We will remember exactly how we felt. We will remember how the person responded when it was pointed out. We will remember any denial of the actions. We will remember any hesitancy that one had to admit the sin. Yes, we will remember. Never again we will allow that person to hurt us that way again.
There is no doubt that offering forgiveness is much easier than forgetting. Aren’t we glad God forgets? Aren’t we glad that our sins will never be brought up again? Aren’t we glad that God does not use our sins against us? Aren’t we glad that God does not worry about being hurt again? Aren’t we glad God will not mention our sins on the Day of Judgment? Certainly we rejoice in these facts. Now, shouldn’t we offer the same blessing to those who trespass against us? Put yourself in their place. It would be a wonderful blessing to know that the person against whom we have sinned has forgiven us and will never use that trespass against us in any way. Dear reader, God forgives and forgets. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Eph. 5:1).