One of the most frequently asked questions I received when I served as a pastor was how “is one to forgive and to forget?”
People would say things like “I have forgiven them but I don’t know if I can forget what they done to me.” In many cases I would reply saying “that it’s very difficult to forget, but time can heal all wounds.” However, though that may have be true it wasn’t the correct answer. I recently done a study on biblical forgiveness have been enlightened with a new perspective on what it truly means to forgive and forget. The answer may not be what you think it’s going to be, so I encourage you to read this entire blog.
Here’s something that may shock you, the phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in the Bible! However, there are numerous scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. So if the bible doesn’t say forgive and forget where did that phrase come from? Not to worry, I have the answer and your beloved pastor may not have taught you wrong at all. We get the phrase forgive and forget from the fact that we know as Christians that we are to be like Christ. Christ (God in the flesh) exemplifies forgiving and forgetting when He died on the cross for our sins. Not only did He die for our sins, but the bible also says that nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:35-39) Not to mention, God cast our sins into the sea of forgetfulness (Micah 7:19) and lastly God ultimately forgets about our sin. (Psalm 103:12) So if God can do that, what does that look like for us as believers? Here’s the part we miss; forgiveness in the Greek means not to just cast from our memory but rather to pardon, to release, to send away, and to let go, and to gain control over. God doesn’t forget about what we’ve done, but instead He lets to go and does not let it affect how He loves and treats us.
So what does that mean for us?
There are things that people do to us that are truly unforgettable, such as rape, murder, abandonment, and other horrible things that will forever be ingrained into our memory bank. However, to truly forgive and forget means to not only forgive them for the deed that was done but to also not let what has happened affect the way you deal with them! It’s amazing how we can say we’ve forgiven someone but when they call us on our cell phone our demeanor changes, when we see them out in public our attitude is affected, when they come to family gatherings the bitterness we felt is no longer subsided but instead comes racing back to the front of our brains. Though we’ve forgiven them for cheating our sex life and trust is forever tainted because it’s just not the same anymore because the bond of trust was broken. To go from bitter to better we must truly forgive and forget and not allow the person and our emotions have power over us. To truly forgive and forget means to express forgiveness in your words but to also not let that person’s transgression against you change who you are and how you behave towards them.
When Christ died on the cross it was knowing that we would continue to sin and turn away from Him. That’s why scripture says “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)That simply means knowing how horrible we would be Christ didn’t let it affect His decision to love us enough to die for us and forgive us for our sins. That embodies what it means to forgive and forget. If you haven’t yet accepted Christ as Lord and savior take the step today and confess your sins, trust Him completely with your soul, and be saved today.