Forgive and Forget?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Forgive and forget.” That’s how we so often put it, right? If you’re going to forgive someone, then you’re going to forget the incident that’s happened that’s hurt you, offended you, or caused you trouble. After all, isn’t that how God works, after all He says, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Fascinating how an omniscient, all-knowing, God could not remember something. God has put your sin on His Son. Jesus has taken them all upon His own shoulders and carried them to the cross, taking them all the way to death with Himself. Your sins have been killed with Christ. Each one of them, all of them, every little one, every big one. All of them went to the tomb with Jesus. And only Jesus came back out, full of glory, triumphant over sin, death, and the devil. He is holy and righteous, and now He gives that holiness to you. In Galatians, we read: “For as many of you as were been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27). In Baptism, through faith, Jesus has put Christ onto you, Jesus’ own life is now covering your complete life, each and every one of your sins. There is no sin for God to see anymore, but only Christ and His righteousness. God will not remember your sin. Your sin is gone, it was put on Christ, and Christ has been put on you.That’s great for a great, holy, omniscient and omnipotent (all powerful) God. But last I checked I’m not all knowing, nor am I all powerful that I could forget an event in my memory. It just doesn’t happen that way. We’re sinful, imperfect, weak human beings. The more we try to forget something, the more we remember it. And when we remember it, the feelings of hurt, shame, guilt and anger comes flooding back, and we feel like maybe we haven’t really forgiven our neighbour, or our Christian brother or sister. Or maybe God hasn’t really forgiven us for what we’ve done if we can keep remembering it. Then, what are we to do?

We go back to the well. We go back to the forgiveness that God has showered upon us. We go back to hearing the preaching of God’s Word that declares our sins forgiven. We go back to the Absolution where we hear the authoritative forgiveness of our sins. We go back to our Baptism, where Christ was put upon us. We go back to the Supper, where God’s body & blood are given to us for the forgiveness of our sins. We return to Jesus and the forgiveness that He gives to us. We return to hearing God’s decision to forgive us and, being filled with His love and grace through that forgiveness, He then gives us the freedom to decide to forgive others. Now you can choose to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that you can forget. It does mean that when those memories arise, it offers another opportunity to forgive, it offers another opportunity to repent and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins.

Now, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a struggle to forgive all over again. The struggle may be just as hard as the first time you forgave your neighbour. Each time it may feel like it’s back to square one, and we must go back to the well once more. Yet through that forgiveness, healing occurs, Jesus does His work, He has chosen to forgive your sins, and gives to you the freedom to choose to forgive the sins of your neighbour against you. You probably won’t forget the incident, but Jesus does work so that in each recollection of the sin, forgiveness may overflow and work healing in you.

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Schneider

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