Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 5 of the Lord’s Prayer Series “Forgive as We Forgive” (LISTEN HERE).
I remember a kid who pushed me up against a fence in gradeschool about 40 years ago and broke the zipper on my jacket. I remember the event. I remember the emotion. I remember the fear. I remember the anger.
Have I not forgiven him?
Some may say, “Mike, you have to forgive and forget.”
Many use this phrase that I believe is more harmful to the reality of forgiveness than helpful. I am guessing this concept comes from Hebrews 8:12 which quotes Jeremiah 31:34, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
So, to be Christ-like in our forgiveness, does that mean we need a “DELETE” button in our minds so that forgiveness triggers amnesia for that event and that person?
Our minds, barring a traumatic injury or Alzheimer’s disease (which I wish on no one), remember events of the past…especially traumatic and emotional events. Our minds do have a coping mechanism that suppresses very painful memories to protect the rest of the mind from those thoughts. However, I have not come across an exercise to practice forgetting. The memory is there or it is not. If a reader knows of research by which I can intentionally erase a memory (hypnosis, maybe?), please share.
Most of the events in our lives that need forgiveness will be hard to forget because there is a strong emotion attached to it. We WERE hurt. We WERE abused. We WERE attacked. We DID suffer an injustice.
So what does it mean that the Lord “will remember their sins no more”?
The Lord knows everything. He is choosing to not recall the sins of Israel for the purpose of holding them against them. Forgiveness wiped the debt so no further payment was needed.
In the era of “keeping a tab” at the local grocery store, the store owner may remember what you purchased because he needed a payment for it. Once the payment was made, he didn’t have to remember what you purchased because it didn’t matter. If he threw out the record or his mind naturally forgot, it was OK because the debt was paid in full.
The Lord, while his infinite knowledge could, does not have to remember our sins for the purpose of holding us accountable for them. In Christ, he has forgiven us. The debt is paid.
So, while the memory may linger, the memory is no longer attached to a debt.
The kid who pushed me. I forgive him. I’m not looking to get even. If I cross paths with him, I won’t bring it up – and if it comes up, it won’t be with anger, bitterness or a desire to get even. Forgiveness releases all the negative emotions and hurt, while the memory of the event may linger.
Please don’t burden your mind with forgetting events of the past and equating the reality that you remember what happened with guilt that you haven’t forgiven. Certainly it is possible that you DO need more strength from the Lord to forgive, release the anger, hurt, and desire to get even. But when the Lord empowers you to forgive, you can now release the memory as well because there is no debt outstanding.
So forgive and while the memory may linger, there will be no outstanding debt attached to it.
Apply: Perhaps there is a situation of hurt from your past. What part of that event still needs forgiveness (even if the person is not asking for it)?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for forgiving my sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and having no reason to recall my sins to charge them to my account. Thank you for paying in full for all the debt my sin has incurred. AMEN.