At the Southwest Baptist Church Ladies LIFT meetings, this years theme has been: LIVE IT, LEARN IT, PASS IT ON. At last night's meeting, we were encouraged to write down something that we have lived and learned so we could pass it on. This is my story.
As an adult, and after I received Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, I struggled with preaching dealing with forgiving and forgetting. Using God as our ultimate example (and He is), I was admonished to forgive and forget because according to Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotted out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Or this verse Jeremiah 31:34b For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. I personally had some deep hurts in my childhood and was constantly asking God to forgive the people in my life that had inflicted those hurts on me. I can honestly say that forgiving was NOT the difficult part of the "FORGIVING AND FORGETTING" equation. It was the forgetting. Because I could not forget the hurtful situation, I was going back to God and once again asking Him to forgive those of their wrongdoing. My heart was rested in knowing that I personally had forgiven the wrongdoers. BUT...Was I really forgiving if I could not forget? Finally, I decided to search the scriptures for myself (hmmm what a concept!) and this is what I found about forgiveness.
I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
In order to receive forgiveness, I must ask. Mark 1:15b Repent ye, and believe the gospel. Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
As a believer in Lord Jesus, I must now forgive those who wrong me. Mark 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive. Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
As a believer, asking God's forgiveness is ongoing. I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Luke 11:4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.
As a believer, forgiveness to others is ongoing. Matthew 18:21-22 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
As a believer, forgiveness from others is necessary. Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Let's do a little mind exercise. If you are a child of God, do you remember what your life was like without God? Do you rejoice in all that God has forgiven? Can you recall something last year, last month, last week, or even today for which you had to ask God's forgiveness? If you remembered some sin against God that is now forgiven, why have you not forgotten it?
We need to remember what we have been forgiven. In Matthew 18:21-36 an indebted servant found mercy at the feet of the King who had compassion on him and forgave him all his debt. This same servant then turned around and without compassion put in prison one who owed him debt. The servant had already forgotten the forgiveness that was bestowed upon him. Memory helps us to remember what we were before God saved us. It helps us to appreciate and be thankful to God for saving us out of a life of condemnation. It helps us to be more compassionate and forgiving toward others when we remember what God did to forgive us our sins.
The Apostle Paul remembered who he was before Christ saved him. In I Timothy 1:13, Paul states Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. In Philippians 3:13-14, the word forgetting has a meaning of "escaping notice." The Apostle Paul says Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Paul could remember his earlier sins, yet he boldly stating that he would not take notice of those things behind him but reach forward to those things ahead.
James 1:23-24 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
God is the Almighty and Final Judge. He has the final memory of every work For believers, II Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
I am finding that "forgive and forget" do not necessarily go hand in hand. Sometimes there is protection in remembering a hurt so that you do not put yourself in the same situation again. Forgetting is not a prequisite to forgiving. Because a memory remains, does not mean that there is not total and complete forgiveness. If you find that there is a situation you have forgiven and have asked God to forgive that person of some offense but you cannot seem to forget it, do this:
REMEMBER IT FORGIVEN!!!
It that small phrase, my friend, I have found great freedom and rest!
I'll close with this story from Corrie Ten Boom's "The Hiding Place."
It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there - the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!" His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. I then took his hand and the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.