Well-intentioned people may tell someone who has been wronged to ‘forgive and forget.’

The problem, however, is that we can’t control painful recollections which hit us out of nowhere when we least expect or want them.

If you’re feeling guilty for failing to both forgive someone and forget what they did to you or someone you love(d), this could be a very freeing blog.

Because Jesus never told anyone to forgive and forget.

He knows the mother who passes the location where her child’s life was violently taken will not forget what happened there. And, in God’s eyes, she’s not a failure because of that.

Memories of actions committed against us by others can have countless triggers beyond our control. A certain song on the radio, a particular location, time of year, anniversary, observation or experience can suddenly pierce our minds and hearts with the memory of having been wronged. And frankly, this may include instances involving people we’ve truly forgiven.

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A woman shared how God gave her victory in forgiving her husband for something grievous he had done. She stated she “forgave and forgot” — never bringing the matter up to him again. However, she frequently told people about the miracle of her ability to forgive her spouse which included reiterating the wrong he had done. Although a proponent of “forgive and forget”, she clearly hadn’t forgotten.

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It’s important to differentiate between the advice of people (such as that of ‘forgiving and forgetting’) and the treasure trove of commands and instructions residing in God’s Word.  People are finite, yet God is infinite. It was at His word—not those of the well-intended—the world, life, and galaxies came into being. So when God instructs us to forgive—and how to—adhering to His Word should be our focus.

As God in flesh, Jesus taught much on—and exemplified—forgiveness.

He made it clear. Forgiveness is a choice.

(Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37)

Forgiving others is possible because God instructs His adopted children through Christ to do it. He supernaturally provides them the power necessary to forgive even the worst of deeds or omissions. Conversely, any feelings of guilt for unintentionally recalling another’s offense should have no power over us because we were never commanded to forget.

Jesus also revealed we may be required to “forgive and repeat.”

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The apostle Peter was apparently struggling over the challenges of forgiveness when he asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to Him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22). In other words,

Don’t even keep track. Forgive others every time they sin against you or someone you love. Forgive. After that, forgive them again. And again…

I try not to laugh when it’s intoned Christianity is for wimps. Anyone can surrender to bitterness when the sins of others are ruinous. But who can genuinely follow Christ’s teachings and forgive someone over and over again for doing them wrong?

Certainly not the weak-hearted.

It takes grit to submit our wills to God and the work of His Holy Spirit in us to the point we can forgive, cease keeping track of others’ offenses, and keep from determining we’ve hit the limit on forgiveness.

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All this flies in the face of “common sense” and we may ask:

Doesn’t God care about wrongs done? I hope you’re on full alert, here, because God’s commands to forgive do not mean He takes sin lightly. (Galatians 6:7). The consequences of sin and wrongdoing are dire and will be judged by Him in righteousness. (John 12:48; Acts 17:30-31).

Does adhering to biblical forgiveness mean we become idiotic, perpetual victims? Biblical forgiveness does not make the obedient foolish, nor a door mat; rather, it elevates that clear-thinking individual in God’s eyes and He will bestow honor and blessing on those who honor Him. (John 14:23; Romans 8:28-29; Luke 6:22-23). We are never to abandon Godly wisdom, but embrace it (more on this at Always Timely and Available Daily: Wisdom!). It is God’s wisdom which calls us to forgive the one who stole from us and His wisdom which cautions us against hiring that same person to house sit.

It is important to note that to forgive in keeping with God’s Word does NOT mean to:

  1. Subject ourselves or others to danger or harm;
  2. Fail to place necessary boundaries around untrustworthy individuals; or
  3. Fall prey to manipulators who seek to guilt-trip us into thinking forgiveness is synonymous with trust.

We will address these and other matters of biblical forgiveness through the lens of Scripture in our next release. Today, it is beneficial to consider what I call:

The Five R’s of Biblical Forgiveness

The first we’ve covered: the “R” of Repetition. We forgive and repeat; over and over again. It’s a matter of obedience.

The second “R” of Biblical Forgiveness is that of Remembrance. We remember what God has done for us, as believers. He forgave our sins and continues to forgive us (Isaiah 55:7; Ephesians 1:7). We remember what our sin did to Jesus—we caused His death (I Peter 2:24). We remember how Jesus taught us to pray: “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…” (Matthew 6:9-12). For me, remembrance of these truths consistently ushers in the third “R”.

The third “R” of Biblical Forgiveness is Repentance. As seen in Matthew 6:12 and elsewhere, Jesus instructs us to ask God for forgiveness by the same measure with which we forgive others. Yet do we really want our sins to be forgiven on those terms? An honest assessment of how forgiving we are may reveal how poorly our hearts sometimes synch with God’s—especially when it comes to having a forgiving spirit (Luke 23:33-34).  To that end, we may often find ourselves standing before God Almighty in deep need of repentance (I John 1:9).

The fourth “R” of Biblical Forgiveness: Replacement. When memories of the sins of others overshadow us, our practice should be to immediately ask God for help in replacing them with thoughts of Him and His Word. This may occur ten or more times in a single hour. Memorizing Philippians 4:8-9 and repeatedly asking God to enable us to apply this passage is essential: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” It takes continued self discipline and God’s grace for us to replace damaging memories or bitterness with thoughts which are glorious. Yet it pays off! While there may be many skirmishes and momentary failures, we can press on and do all things through Christ who strengths us—including prayer for the offender (Psalm 37:23-24; Philippians 3:12-15; 4:13; Matthew 5:44).

The fifth “R” of Biblical Forgiveness is Rejoicing. When our thoughts of enmity or victimhood are replaced with deliberate, “Philippians 4:8-9 truths”, we rejoice over God’s forgiveness of our own sins, His love and watch-care over us, that He does all things well, and for His trustworthy, thrilling promises (Psalm 32:8; Jeremiah 29:11; Revelation 3:21). We can worship and delight in Him for what He is doing and going to do through our obedience to His commands to forgive.

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I know this is a lot to chew on.

But look to Jesus. He is the God who invites us to walk with Him on water—above the raging seas of pain and wrongdoing.

And He is worthy of our trust and obedience.

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

4 Comments

  • Beryl says:

    Exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you Jesus for using June!

  • David says:

    Fantastic post June!
    I have had this discussion with many people over the last few years.
    This really cements what I have been trying to share.
    Blessings and shalom to you and all!
    David

  • Judi says:

    Thank you for the clear and biblical message, June! It’s good to be reminded (and reassured) that God is in control and even if we can’t forget completely, replaying negative actions of others (or retaliating in kind) serves no purpose. Instead, forgiving over and over and giving the pain over to the Lord to handle takes us on that path to healing. ?

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