No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34
Regardless of what people might say, to forgive is not to forget.
There is no magic in forgiveness where the moment it is accepted that the memories of hurt are instantly erased from the hard drive of our memory and our deep wounds suddenly disappear.
But, what do we do with passages like Jeremiah 31:34? If God forgets our sins when He forgives us, shouldn’t we do the same to those that hurt us?
The word “remember” in Jeremiah 31 is not dealing with a memory issue, but rather a promise.
God doesn’t suffer from amnesia.
He made a covenant not to treat us as our sin deserves. Jesus took the cost of our sins on His shoulders when He was nailed to a cross in order to fulfill that covenant.
Debunking this idea that forgiveness is forgetting helps one to better see forgiveness as an event and process.
When we show grace to someone it is an ‘event’ as words are expressed in “I forgive you.” There was a time and place when the original act of forgiveness occurred.
Yet, every time their hurtful words or actions get brought back to our attention we must continue to forgive and not give in to any desires for revenge or anger. This touches upon the ‘process’ of forgiveness.
Failure to see forgiveness through the lens of being both an event and process will cause considerable frustration, disappointment, and guilt for an individual.
A chain reaction will be set off where they try even harder, using sure will power, to erase whatever sin they’ve forgiven from their memory completely.
Flipping the off switch on a hot oven doesn’t instantly turn it back to room temperature. Stand anywhere near the oven you can feel the heat radiating.
However, over time the warmth of the oven lessens. The same is true with forgiveness.
It does not eradicate the hurt, lack of trust or anger you hold towards the person you have forgiven.
By forgiving someone, you are absorbing the cost of their offense against you.
This transaction comes with some requirements on your part.
By counting the sin no more, you are also committing to uphold three promises to the individual whom you have forgiven. These promises are:
“I will not bring up this offense again or use it against you.”
How easy would it be for us to keep the guilt of their sin in our arsenal for a fight in the future. We very well could use it time and time again as our trump card in an argument: ‘remember the time when you…’ This does not mean it cannot be talked about again. Instead the promise you are making is not to bring the sin up anytime you are angry or bitter as a way of getting back at an individual.
“I will not bring it up to others in gossip or bad mouth you in front of others.”
Depending on the gravity of the sin, appropriate care may help you handle an offense against you. This promise deals more with not having loose lips around others. We put a clamp on our mouths and do not play the blame game as we gossip about the person to others.
“I will no longer personally dwell on this offense.”
This promise is at much for your benefit as it for anyone else. You no longer replay the sin on videotape that shows the transpired events on a continual loop inside your head. Rather than dwelling on the past, you look to the future and the change God has in store for both you and the individual.
One has to trust they have forgiven even if there is some warmth coming from old wounds. This awareness forces you to have consistent motive checks where you ask God to reveal your attitude towards this person.
- Of the three promises above dealing with forgiveness, which promise do you most often break? Which one do you believe people find the hardest to commit to upholding?
God, open my eyes to the places where unforgiveness resides. Also, help me to trust that true forgiveness has occurred in other areas even when I can feel the sting of old wounds. It brings me comfort knowing that You identify with my pain and comfort me when I am weak. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.