By My Wife Jane,
I’ve always been a little irritated & put off by the typical, flippant response to pain in relationships. Just “forgive & forget” they say. It’s a kind of catch-all phrase, a quick remedy for the heart, a non-thinking switch to flip on. I can see the shrugging shoulders “oh-well” response, implying that you just do it! And move on. I did some quick research to confirm what I already knew. This accepted word combo isn’t Biblical at all. The phrase is credited to 2 sources: Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) in his novel DON QUIXOTE said, “Let us forget & forgive injuries.” William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in his play KING LEAR espoused more of the same when he said, “Pray you now, forget & forgive.”
For years now, I have wrestled with what didn’t seem correct about this phrase. It rubbed me wrong. I don’t know about you, but in my challenging opportunities to forgive, I couldn’t “just forget” the hurt & pretend it wasn’t happening. Nevertheless, I’m called, by God, to live forgiving. Forgiving is the only way to live free in your soul. The more I studied the Word, the less comfortable I became with this standard “quick-fix” response to real-life pain. Take the time to read Matthew 18:21-35. No excuses can stand, in the light of the 70x7 principle. We are called to forgive…over & over…for the same offense. Forgiveness is supposed to be a manifested fruit, ripe for the picking, in the lives of those who profess to be born-again. (Matt 6:12; Luke 7:47; 2 Corinthians 2:10&11; Ephesians 4:32)
One day in a conversation with my daughter, we discussed the error of the forgetting mentality. That’s when I realized the Biblical truth about this issue. The Light of Truth exposes error. Error doesn’t expose itself. So, I saw that instead of forgiving & forgetting, we should be forgiving because we remember. We remember how much we needed forgiveness ourselves. We remember the downward spiral that exposed the ugliness of our self- directed life without Christ. We remember the pain of brokenness & release after repentance. We forgive because in any conflict or misunderstanding, God deals with us first. He doesn’t let us get away with anger or bitterness, dangerous roots that can lead to our personal demise, or infect & affect others—saved or not. A few weeks after this conversation, I read this quote by the late Jennifer K Dean. “The Father has forgiven you more than you will ever be called upon to forgive any other person. The cost of his forgiveness is a higher price than you will ever have to pay. No matter what anyone has ever done to you, that person’s sin against you does not even come close to the measure of your sins against God.” Ouch! That arrow hit the bullseye of my heart & confirmed what I was learning in the Word. There was no running away from God on this one!
Secondly, I got to thinking about the consequences of people not being willing to remember, to “fess up,” to share their past & their ongoing need for forgiveness. Our past is our testimony. If we don’t share it, God is robbed of His glory…the purpose for our redemption in the first place. Why would folks be drawn to Christ if there was no shared understanding of the deliverance? I know we are not to dwell on the details of past sins. We don’t entertain, reintroduce them, or defile others by sharing too much. But neither do we hide what drove us to Christ when we saw our need for redemption. Always & forever, our ongoing testimony is to bring others into the Kingdom. Always & forever, our story is for His glory. Always & forever, as Christ’s very Life increases in our lives, our dependency on the former things, from the past, decreases. Always & forever, we should not be ashamed (a form of pride) of Galatians 2 :20.
“I have been crucified with Christ; & it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; & the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, & delivered Himself up for me. “
When you forgive someone, you “cut them loose,” so to speak. You don’t hold them guilty because you remember what Jesus Christ did for you. He died for your sins. Your sins, alone, required His death. Legally, before God Almighty, we have no grounds, no rights, to wave the banner of unforgiveness. I would be so forthright as to say, if bitterness rules a soul, I doubt that person fully understands being reconciled to God by Christ’s death, & much more, being saved by His life. (Romans 5:10) It’s a packaged deal. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s ALL or it’s NOTHING. Do you know His ALL? If you live a lifestyle of holding people guilty for your past choices (not taking responsibility for your sins first), or if you live holding people guilty for their choices that affected you (thinking your sins aren’t as bad), then there is a serious gap, an error, in your understanding of the Cross & Christ’s resurrected Life.
I’m not saying living forgiving is a walk in the park. This process has been one of the most in-your-face admonitions of my life! Truthfully, bitterness is natural to our flesh. It’s easier to default to it, than to have your feet held in God’s refining fire. But-- we are NOT battling flesh & blood, even when it feels like it. This is a spiritual battle to walk in the Truth of God’s Word & in reliance on His power & strength to deliver us… from ourselves first. To obey & do what He says. The awesome fact is, through Christ, He provides for us, what He requires from us. (Ephesians 6:10-18) And it happens moment by moment, one choice at a time. Because the scheming enemy of our souls knows no end to his tricky, innovative methods to deceive us. And don’t think for a second that he cares about you. Because he doesn’t! He wants you to be his pawn, used to discredit the gospel of Jesus Christ, ultimately trying to cast shadows over God’s character so people will doubt Him. His tactics are the fertilizer that encourages bitterness to take root, & blossom, into a stronghold of unforgiveness. Scary! Be on high alert spiritually. My notes on the Ephesians passage reminded me that “Satan is no match for God, but we are no match for him. We can take our stand against Satan only when we are strong in God’s might.”
I love the encouraging truth in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. (Please take the time to study this passage.) Many believers aren’t even aware that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Because the love of Christ controls us, we no longer live for ourselves. And because we are NEW creatures IN Christ, we no longer look at others as their flesh (key to the forgiveness lifestyle) but we respond to them, instead, through the Spirit. God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. Meaning, He no longer counts our sins against us. Instead, He has committed to us (placed in us) the word of reconciliation. As ambassadors for Christ, God works through us beckoning others to come to Him. We are to live & share that Christ became sin for us, & in exchange, we became positionally righteous in Christ, resulting in a restored relationship with God. Until perfected, completely, in heaven, we experience a daily sanctification process on earth. God’s love is evidenced by His sacrificial forgiveness. This is the heartbeat of our life’s purpose & message.
I’m forgiven, because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive & well, Your spirit is within me
Because You died & rose again
Amazing love, how can it be
That You my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, I honor You.