Forgive. And forget?

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Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” [Luke 6:37 NKJV]

As I see it, we are told to forgive – I don’t really see any wiggle room on that. However, forgiveness is not really about the other person – it is more about us. Yes, forgiveness may do something for them, and it may not; but it does do something for us – forgiving others sets us free.

But what about “forgive and forget”? While I see that God forgets our sins, I see no command, or example, of forgetting what is done against us. This is good, as humans don’t have the ability to choose to forget! I think what is meant by the forget part is to act as if the wrong never occurred. I find that unacceptable because actions have consequences, and bad/wrong actions have consequences we don’t like.

Rebuilding a relationship, or rebuilding trust, or getting past fear, all take time. The worse the offence, the longer it takes. Being “perfect” or “clean” for a week, a month, or even a year does not prove the offence will never occur again; neither does it heal all the damage that has been done. Too often, the one who committed the wrong gets upset because they think their spouse is taking “too long to get over it”. I’ve seen more than a few marriages deeply hurt by this. It seems the one who commits the wrong underestimates the depth of hurt and betrayal, and because of this underestimates the time needed to work through it. I fear many marriages have been crippled or destroyed because the guilty party gives the one who was wronged only half the time they need to deal with things. If you have wronged your bride, give her more time than you think it should take to work things out.

That said, if you are the one who did something wrong, and you feel your spouse is holding on too long, or using it to control you, my suggestion would be to get outside help. You may be right, but if you are, she is not in a place to hear it from you.

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Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:


Due to a crazy week, I have not had time to do my usual blog reading. I expect to do it Sunday, and will get links out with the Monday tip.

9 Comments on “Forgive. And forget?

  1. Hey man,

    just a quick one: The Bible doesn’t say that God forgets our sins – it says that He stops thinking about them. I don’t think God can forget. Anyways, that sort of changes our responsibility as well doesn’t is?


  2. Paul,

    A good post, but I do have to respectfully disagree on one point.
    We do have an example of forgetting the sins against us:
    Hebrews 8:12 says “For I will forgive their wickness and remember their sins no more”
    We have discussed this topic extensively in our bible study and have concluded that God has given us the standard for forgiveness that we as believers should aspire to. But we all know we are not as good at it as God is. So a more real response when someone asks our forgiveness or we decide we need to forgive someone is “I will begin the process of forgiving.” Or in other words, “I will” instead of “I do”. For us imperfect humans we can’t meet God’s standard for forgiveness any better than we can meet God’s standard for holiness. That’s why we have to have a savior, Jesus Christ. When we have truly forgiven, we will no longer have a negative emotional response to the event. It will be like it never happened.

    I thank God for your ministry and how you have ministered to me.

    God Bless, Ken

  3. *This is good, as humans don’t have the ability to choose to forget!*
    Hmmm… “Apart from Christ, I can do NOTHING.” Ring any bells? We get WAY too hung up on saying “I can’t..” “It’s not in my nature to…” “That’s just not possible..” Are we in the world AND of the world? Or have we been changed by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so that we can say, “while I am still IN this world, I am no longer OF this world”?
    *While I see that God forgets our sins, I see no command, or example, of forgetting what is done against us.*
    When you sin, who do you hurt? God. You have gone against Him, and His will. Yet, when we come before Him in humility and ask His forgiveness, He says “You are my child. I love you. Your sin is forgiven, and I will remember it no more.” You need examples…? How many times do we see Peter blowing it, jumping the gun, opening his mouth before his brain can stop it? Do you see even one time in there when Jesus said, “Hey Pete! Remember the other day when you…?” Do you see anywhere in the Word, where God looks down at Paul and says, “you’re just not any good to me. Look at all those times you tortured and killed my people.”?
    The whole point in walking with Him, is to become more and more like Him. To act the way He would act, love the way He loves, forgive the way He forgives… Can we do that, in our fallen human flesh? Of course not! But with His help? ALWAYS!
    All that said, I completely understand the hurt that comes from someone -especially our spouse- coming against us. I have been on both ends of that and it stinks! It’s hard enough to forgive, and then I have to act like nothing happened? UN-FAIR!! But that’s when I must bow the knee to His will, pray that He would give me the strength to move past the hurt. It is then that I realize, maybe I have the meaning confused… Maybe it’s not so much acting like nothing happened, and more to the point that I am not to hold it against them anymore.
    Now, if your spouse (or whoever) keeps doing the same thing… is not honestly sorry for it… that’s a whole ‘nother pot. Go to your pastoral staff, or find another source of GOOD HONEST CHRISTIAN help. Allow them to step in with you, take it to the Lord to ask direction, and address that person together.
    -BUT- If they truly are sorrowful about the transgression, really are not trying to do whatever they feel like without concern for other’s (YOU!), then yes… you are obligated to do as we have been given example, to forgive as He does. You ask, “how long should it take?” I answer, “How long does it take Him?”

    Thought to consider…
    Sinning (present participle) is by definition a continuous and ongoing action. In our human flesh, it’s going to happen. But EVERY time it does, and we confess it to Him, He forgives. Does sin have a consequence? Yes. The wages of sin is death. Just the really bad ones? No. EVERY sin is payable by death..! So now you must ask yourself… do you want to live under the Law, holding every trespass against a person *because actions have consequences, and bad/wrong actions have consequences we don’t like* -OR- do you want to live under the new covenant in His blood, and forgive as He forgives because you now love as He loves?

  4. Interesting comments – including the second answering the first.

    We see NT examples of not forgetting, and even of warning others about someone (Alexander the coppersmith in 2 Timothy 4:14).

    One huge difference between us and God is that God knows our hearts, and thus knows if we have “really” repented. I’ve seen many folks who convinced others they had changed, but they had not. I’ve also seen folks who are convinced in themselves that they have changed, but they have not.

    • **One huge difference between us and God is that God knows our hearts, and thus knows if we have “really” repented.**

      Hence the reason you’re supposed to take it to Him, pray for direction, ask for His strength to deal with it. You cannot handle it in your own power… nobody can.

      Your example in 2 Timothy says God will repay Alexander for his works, which we see is doing evil to Paul and others. But evidently Alexander has not repented of his sin, and shows no desire to turn away from his evil deeds. So how is this an example of Him not forgetting?

      Turn to 1 Corinthians 13. What does love look like? In this particular conversation, how about this part…”it keeps no record of wrong”..?

      Honestly, all you’re showing me here is a refusal to let the Lord work. You’d rather find a way to negate what is clearly shown, than to simply lay the problem down at His feet.

      BOTTOM LINE…: we are commanded to love one another, and to forgive those who trespass against us. God the father shows us plenty of examples in the Old Testament, and Jesus shows us in the New along with Paul and John. If a brother/sister/friend/husband/wife/mother/father/son/daughter/etc comes to you, asking forgiveness for sinning against you, you are to pray and then forgive them as the Lord forgives. The example of that is shown many times over…

  5. In the post and in all the comments I think we miss an important point. Forgetfulness is a flaw, shows that a person is not perfect and if you study the meaning of Hebrews, you will find that God is perfect and therefore is not capable of forgetting. BUT what God does do, He chooses not to remember it – there is a huge difference. When you forget, you can’t remember. When you choose to not remember it, that does not mean you don’t remember, but rather that you choose to never bring up the subject. In my personal marriage, my wife did something that really hurt me and I could not stop thinking about it even though I she was truly sorry and even though I said I forgave her. I was praying for God to help me to stop thinking about this because every time we would argue about something, I would always mention the hurtful act and it would hurt my wife deeply. Then I realized that God chooses to not remember, therefore, I I am to forgive like God forgives, then I to must CHOOSE to not remember. As I made those decision each day, not to think about it, not to allow myself to mention it especially in times of conflict, God began healing my hurts and thus God was able to help me stop hurting my wife. Oh, I still remember the “action” but I have choosen to forgive which means I have choosen never to bring that up to her again. That does not mean we did not ahve to deal with the hurt we caused each other, but it did mean, I would never say or think about it in a manner which would cause more hurt.

    One other item is that while we forgive, there are natural consquences to our actions, something that the world is teaching us should not exist. So while we forgive, it does not mean that we necessarily provide opportunity for the offender to offend again. Ex: You can give a person for stealing, but you don’t let your money lay out in the open to be a temptation to the person.
    When our spouse “sins” against us, yes we must forgive, but the consequences must be that we eliminate the opportunity for repeat “sin” as much as possible. Oh, we never bring up there “sin” to them as an accusation or in any hurtful way, but we allow them to feel the consequences of their “sin.” To understand more about this, just treat the offender the way Jesus treats you when you do the saem thing to Jesus. If you do, you will be acting in a Christ-like manner.

    • @John Delcamp – Thanks for the distinction between forgetting and choosing to not remember – I agree with you, and you put it well.
      I also agree with you on consequences, and that was what I was trying to get at. See below.

  6. What I have apparently failed to communicate here is that our sins have consequences, and we should not blame the one we sinned against for those consequences.

    I believe David honestly repented for his adultery with Bathsheba, and killing Uriah, we see that God forgave him – but God also said that as a result of his sins, the sword would never pass from his house, and three sons would die!

    David did not blame God for these consequences, nor did he turn his back on God or get upset that God had not “forgotten” his sins. I see this as the example we should follow.

    One place this is commonly an issue is when a husband commits sexual sin. The resulting damage to the relationship, and to couples sex life, is not his wife punishing him, it is a consequence of his sin. Too often men don’t “get” this, and they expect the consequences to have some sort of expiration date. When that date passed, the man then feels wronged, and accuses his wife of not forgiving, or of not being willing to forget.

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