Forgive without forgetting

‘A Word from the Pastor’ By Clayton Adams Recently, I was asked, “Can a person forgive without forgetting?” My response was an unequivocal, “Yes!” This subject is much deeper than I could possibly write about here, but here is my feeble attempt to help someone who may be struggling with forgiving but not forgetting. Nowhere in the Bible have I found the phrase “forgive and forget,” so the best thing to do is to go immediately to what Jesus instructed on this subject. Jesus never instructs or teaches His disciples and followers to forget. He did teach and instruct in the strongest of terms that those who choose to follow Him must forgive others. Jesus stated to His disciples, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Forgiveness must have been on the apostle Peter’s mind when he asked Jesus about this very subject in Matthew 18:21-22, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ response: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” In verses 23-34 of the same chapter, Jesus shares a story or parable with His disciples (and us) to help their (our) understanding of forgiving. These and other scriptures (and there are many more) make it clear that Jesus requires us to forgive others. I have found no scripture that instructs or commands us to “forget.” Our ability to remember is a gift from God. With out the ability to remember we would never know joy, love, neither would we learn, comprehend, experiment, our lives would be boring, mechanical (not at all what God created humans for). It is not a sin to remember! What one chooses to do with a particular memory is what gets one into trouble and conflict internally and with others. When I am hurt or offended I have two choices to make. First, to forgive the person – with no reservations, forgive without conditions. Second, when this person or the offense comes into my mind (and it surely will) I must immediately remind myself that just like Christ has forgiven me, I have forgiven that person of that offense. Remembering that Christ forgives our sins and offenses is the starting point. The apostle Paul helps us in a very practical way in his teaching. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) The apostle Paul tells us “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) This is the problem – we view people as the enemy and they are not. Our real enemy is the devil, the enemy of our soul. When he gets us to look at people as our enemy it is difficult to forgive and even more difficult to forget. Jesus only said to forgive. He does not tell us to forget because He gave us a mind to remember. For those who have been deeply hurt and wounded, I urge you to forgive the person and remember that because Christ forgives us, we can and we must forgive others. Forgiveness is commanded by Jesus – I believe He commanded this act because He knows the greatest benefit is not to the one forgiven but it is for the one who forgives. Forgiving others is the greatest gift we give to ourselves. Perhaps this is why Jesus while dying on the Cross cries out to God the Father and says; “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” In all things of life, Christ Jesus set the example for us to live by. Forgiving others is commanded. Forgetting what others have done is not commanded. He only asks us to do what is possible. He does the impossible. The battle is not so much with forgiving, what we struggle with is forgetting. Stop trying to forget. When the memory of offense floods your mind, immediately pray for that person. Christ our Lord will do the rest in your heart and mind. Clayton Adams is pastor at Earle First Assembly of God. You can e-mail him at, or find Earle First Assembly on Facebook.

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