In the kingdom of God, He chooses to forgive and He chooses to forget our sin. We are taught in this world that the ability to remember things is very powerful, but in the kingdom of God, the opposite is true… God’s greater power and sovereignty is displayed by His choice to forgive and forget.
Yet forgetting is not quite what we think… does God truly will Himself to forget? Maybe… although I think the picture of forgetfulness is that He knows, but chooses to not hold it against us any longer. The scripture “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12) is thus that God chooses to remove the sin from the list of charges against us in the dock.
The difficult part is that, in the kingdom of God, He calls us to do the same.
A very challenging commandment, just after what we call the Lord’s prayer, is “if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The difficult part is that He makes no exceptions to this.
The helpful part is that He will enable us to do so, but we have to be a willing and active participant in the process.
I have been hurt deeply many times by other people, and the worst of it is, often from others who call themselves Christians.
Yet the imperative to forgive still applies… and is sometimes a process… even though it is the most difficult thing that I have ever done. And He has given me the strength to do so. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive, and there is no offense so great that I am released from forgiving the person who committed the offense.
On many occasions I have held onto the offense and chose not to forgive. Yet this puts me in a dangerous place before God, and moreover, my life will get stuck in a holding pattern until I forgive (no forward motion).
On rare occasions, as He and I have covenanted to forgive another’s offense against me, He has given me the grace to actually forget the offense. Strange as it might seem, I cannot remember the details of that offense.
But the normal case is that I choose to forgive, even though it is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and it is a process. He gives me the strength to forgive. But I still remember and I do not forget.
But let me clarify… when I say I do not forget, it is like what I said about Hebrews 8:12 when God forgets our sin. I still remember the details, but I no longer hold the offense against the other person. Thus I have “forgotten” in kingdom of God terms, even though I remember what happened.
We need to be quick to forgive. The longer we nurse an offense (and I am not minimizing the hurt of an offense), the harder it becomes to forgive and “forget”. Also, refusing to really forgive actually gives the offense continuing power over us.
Forgiveness is not just an intellectual exercise. It involves the spirit, the mind and the body. It requires action, not just to release and forgive the offense, but actually do the opposite of the offense. This might even mean engaging in positive and practical activity toward the person who committed the offense.
For me, this is the litmus test of whether I have forgiven or not.
Does the remembrance of the event, or a fresh encounter with the person, recall fresh offense or bitterness, or can I remember the offense without being re-offended?
If I can remember the details but “forget” the offense, if remembering or encountering the person who caused the offense does not cause continued bitterness or fresh offense, then I know that I have truly forgiven.
But I have to choose to forgive, and will myself to forgive, and He will enable me to do so. He calls each of us to this, and there are no exceptions, either in the offense that we must forgive, or in His strength which enables us to forgive… and “forget”.