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(This series freely adapted from Larry Osborne’s book: Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe)
“FORGIVING MEANS FORGETTING”
1 SAMUEL 12:13-14
Forgiveness. It’s a tough and touchy subject. But forgiveness is not an option. It’s a command. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount in Mt. 6 that if we want God to forgive us, we must forgive others. Paul puts it this way in Col. 3:13 – “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Forgiveness may not be an option but it can be difficult to do. C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” It’s made even more difficult because many of us have never been shown what real biblical forgiveness looks like.
Some of us have been taught that forgiveness is pretending that nothing happened. That’s an ostrich move – head-in-the-sand – that simply tries to ignore the obvious. Some of us see forgiveness as a fresh start without any of the consequences or old baggage having to be dealt with. Still others view forgiveness as the immediate and full restoration of a broken relationship, carrying with it the same level of trust and privileges that preceded the wrongdoing.
Misconceptions concerning forgiveness have forged a very formidable spiritual urban legend. This spiritual urban legend is the widely-held belief that genuine forgives means literally forgetting what happened. This spiritual urban legend proposes that forgiveness means wiping the slate so clean that every memory of the transgression disappears. Let’s see how that concept matches with biblical teaching and the way things really work.
One teaching concerning forgiveness has been popular for a number of years. It says that if we confess our sins to God, He will forgive them. And that is correct. But the second part of the teaching says that if we confess the same sin twice, God will be confused. He’d have no idea what we were talking about because He’d already forgiven and forgotten the first time. The concept is that forgiveness is an act of self-induced spiritual amnesia that God does for us and that we’re expected to do for others.
But here’s the problem with that concept. It’s not how God forgives. God doesn’t forget when He forgives – at least not in the sense that we commonly use the word forget today.
If you pick up any English dictionary and look up the word forget, you’ll find that its primary meaning has to do with an inability to recall something. Examples would be forgetting where you put your keys or forgetting about an important meeting. In modern usage, forgetting is the opposite of remembering.
So, when we read in Jer. 31:34, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more,” we think that means that God literally erases our sins from His memory as if they never happened.
Then you add other verses like Ps. 103:12b that says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” And then we’re told that a “No Fishing”
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