If you haven’t noticed, the issue of forgiveness has been on my mind lately. Specifically, I’ve been reflecting on the nature of God’s forgiveness, our call to forgive one another, and our responsibility to seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged. I believe that these three forgiveness issues are related: because we are forgiven by God, we must forgive those who wrong us and seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged.
Speaking of those who will accept God’s forgiveness, Psalm 103:12 states, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” And in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
God forgives our sins, and then He forgets them. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and trying to figure out how it applies to our human-to-human relationships. Is it really possible, humanly speaking, to forget a sin committed against you? And if you haven’t forgotten it, does that mean you haven’t truly forgiven it?
After listening to a sermon yesterday, I think I’ve come closer to an answer for these questions. I don’t know yet if my partial conclusions hold true to Scripture (and if they don’t, then throw them out!); but I do think they hold true to my life experience.
In his teaching on the Lord’s prayer, this pastor spoke of forgiveness as a choice to “let it go”–not to pretend like it didn’t happen or like it didn’t hurt, but to decide to give up one’s right to seek vengeance and justice. He then clarified that just because forgiveness has then taken place does not necessarily mean that reconciliation has occurred. Reconciliation, he said, only happens when both repentance and forgiveness are involved.
So then I started thinking about reconciliation and the role it seems to play in my finding the capacity to forget. I realized that in the instances where I have been wronged and reconciliation has occurred, I seem to naturally forget the wrong committed against me. But in the instances where I have had to choose to forgive in the absence of repentance–and thereby in the absence of reconciliation–I find it much more difficult to forget.
The danger in this remembering of sins is the tendency to develop bitterness towards the person whom you are forgiving. I say “are forgiving” because, for me, this choice to forgive an unrepentant person is an ongoing action. Each time I remember the wrong, I have to forgive again. This makes me still wonder if my inability to forget stems from a possibly incomplete or insincere forgiveness.
May God search my heart and reveal to me any people or sins which I haven’t truly and completely forgiven that I may be fully obedient to the Scripture: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions”] (Mark 11:25-26).
If anyone has any thoughts or words of encouragement on this issue, please share!