One of the very special promises in the Bible is that when God forgives, He also forgets. In Hebrews 8:12 God says of the new covenant, "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." The latter statement is emphatic; in Greek it is a double negative. Now in English two negatives make a positive, but in Greek two negatives make a sentence emphatically negative. God is saying, "I will NOT remember their sins at all." He does this because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His forgiveness and forgetfulness are not because we are so good otherwise that He can overlook a few things. Rather, He forgives and forgets because He is so good and because Jesus died for us.
Now in this matter of forgive and forget, God is our example, just as He is our Father. Our forgiving others is not optional; it is a matter of our salvation. We cannot hope to go to heaven if we are going to nurse a grudge against someone else. No grudges will be tolerated there. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, He instructed them to say, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). Then at the end of that prayer, He noted, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15).
We are good about remembering to ask God in prayer to forgive our debts; we are not good at all about adding that tag phrase, "as we also have forgiven our debtors." Why did Jesus teach us to add that? Was it not so that we would remember each time we pray that others stand in relation to us in the same way that we stand in relation to God and that we, like God, must be forgiving? Would it not be wise for us to learn from Jesus to add that tag line to our prayers?
In Matthew 18:23-34 Jesus told a parable about a servant who was forgiven by his master of a debt that would have taken him 200,000 years of wages to repay. He then turned around and refused to forgive a debt of his fellow servant that would have taken only four months of wages to repay. Because of his unforgiveness, his master had him too thrown into debtor's prison. Following this parable, Jesus concludes, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (Matt. 18:35). When we compare the things that we have done against God with the things that others have done against us, we see why Jesus says that we are to forgive others seventy-seven times for the same offence (Matt. 18:22)! After all, how many times have we repeated a sin?
When we truly forgive someone, we will forget about the wrong done to us. Oh, we may well be able to call the incident to mind if we are reminded of it, but it will no longer plague us as it did in the past--it will no longer eat at our minds in a way that it keeps recurring in our thoughts. This we must do, not just for our own peace of mind, but because of Jesus. You see, He died for that person that sinned against us just like He died for us. That is why He calls on us to forgive and forget.
Copyright © 1993, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.