(This is the seventh entry of a series on forgiveness. Forgetting.)
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remember your sins no more (Isaiah 43:25). Forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
Forgiveness means to remember the sins forgiven no more. Forgiveness forgets the sins forgiven. “What sin? I don’t remember you doing anything wrong!” This is the popular conception.
The Gospels do not record all the events of the life and ministry of Jesus. There are events and teaching which are recorded, but not in all four Gospels. One of the events found in all four Gospels is Peter’s denial of Jesus. David, the beloved King of Israel, the psalmist, the man after God’s own heart, who of us does not know about David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband (2 Samuel 11)? God has an interesting way of remembering sins no more. Peter and David’s sins are recorded for all to read and know throughout the centuries.
What I understand God to be saying is that forgiveness isn’t forgetting. “What sin, I don’t remember you doing that.” Rather, forgiveness is not remembering our sins against us. Notice what the psalmist writes in one of his songs.
He (God) will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103: 9, 10, 12).
God does not treat us as our sins deserve. He separates our sins from us, from his attitude toward us, and from his behavior toward us. God treats us as though we have not sinned. The apostle Paul writes of God placing our sins upon Jesus on the cross and placing the righteousness of Christ upon us. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Forgiveness is to remember the sin no more. To remember no more is to let go of the sin’s, of the offender’s, hold on you. It is to let go of the bitterness, the anger, and the desire for revenge. To remember no more is to set the sin aside, canceling the debt, and not holding the debt over the head of the offender. When the person who was wronged is able to remember no more her attitude and behavior toward the offender are no longer colored by the wrong done against her. To remember no more is to not treat the offender as he deserves. It is to so separate the sin from yourself and the offender as to enable you to “be kind and compassionate” toward the offender (Ephesians 4:32). To remember no more is to be able to love the offender with the love of Christ. Such love “is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Lewis Smedes writes, “We can dethrone the memory; we can refuse to let it control our lives…we can purge its poison from our soul.”1 Jim McGuiggan writes of meeting “people who are just like God in the matter of forgiving and forgetting wrongs–people who with severe mercy deal with wrongs and are done with them–permanently! These people wouldn’t dream of tormenting us with the past or spreading our shame abroad.”2 Charles Morgan writes, “I said a foolish thing; I wish I could unsay it. But you alone can unsay it by not remembering my foolishness when you remember me.”3 To remember no more–I like the way Karyl Huntley puts it. “You know you have forgiven someone when he or she has harmless passage through your mind.”4
God’s promise in Christ is this, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). Whatever the sin I have been forgiven, when God thinks of me, he thinks not of my sin, but of the delight of my being his child. He sees me in the righteousness of his Son. What a cost God paid for forgiveness! What a cost had to be paid for my sin! Jesus Christ died on the cross. He bore God’s wrath against my sin. God inflicting his wrath upon his Son. God inflicting his wrath upon himself. God’s mercy and grace are costly to himself. How humbled and driven each of us should be to live in relationship with others in a way to bring praise to our Father by forgiving as he has forgiven us.
____________ 1Lewis B. Smedes. “Keys to Forgiving” in Christianity Today (December 3, 2001), 73. 2Jim McGuiggan. Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul, Impressions Left by the Savior’s Touch (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 1998), 169. 3Ibid., 152. 4Larry James. “Forgiveness…What’s It For,” http://www.CelebrateLove.com/forgive.htm.