Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22
An interesting question for today: Does forgiving mean forgetting? How difficult is it to truly forgive someone an offense against you if you are not willing to forget it? As the situation remains stuck in the far reaches of your memory, it is bound to pop up from time to time. With that, certainly there is opportunity for the pain and anger to return. If and when it does, is the forgiveness you’ve extended real?
Speaking for myself, I do strive to forgive those trespasses against me, just as I hope people are able to forgive me when I sin against them. Being in the forgiveness business (tongue in cheek), this is something I pray over time and time again. Yet, sometimes I struggle with living in the forgetting phase of forgiveness. Wounded pride, feelings of grief and anger and a little bit of distrust come welling to the surface of emotion as events open old wounds. I’m sure this is the same for most people. It’s really is hard to forget. Thankfully, we have a Savior who teaches us about forgiveness; we have a Lord who models this behavior.
Jesus had compassion for sinners; he had love for those who spoke out against him. Even as sinners came to be with Jesus, he never held anything against them. Yes, he pointed out their sin, and he taught them a better way. Jesus had compassion for those who recognized their need for mercy, those who knew him as Lord, and then repented. He forgave them their sins, empowering them to go and sin no more. What’s more, Jesus even had compassion for those lost in their sin. We see this so vividly at the cross when Jesus prays for those crucifying him; “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Today it is our turn. Following the example of Christ Jesus, we too are to forgive. Even as we hold one another accountable, we cannot forget that we too are sinners in need of God’s grace. In my estimation, forgiving and forgetting means that as we forgive those who wrong us in some way, we remember that we too have done wrong towards others. It means recognizing Jesus as Savior and Lord, coming to repentance begging God’s mercy. It means admitting that we are all broken in some way, and we need the power of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ in order to move past sin and to begin healing strained relationships. It’s certainly not easy to forgive. It’s even harder to forget. Remember, even as we ought to forget those sins against us, we also hope others forget the sins we commit against them.
As God’s people living in his grace, we are called to listen to the teaching of Jesus and learn a better way. We are called to forgive fully and completely. Only then we are able to put away the wounded pride, feelings of pain and anger, and start rebuilding broken trust. Jesus says we are to forgive those who sin against us completely and without reservation. He didn’t say it was going to be easy. But through the example Jesus set before us, the model of compassion and mercy, Christ shows us a better way. Forgive and forget. Live in the grace of God rather than the shadow of sin. For this is the way of the Lord.