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Ask A Pastor: Is “Forgive and Forget” Biblical?

Question:

Is the saying “forgive and forget” Biblical? I understand we as Christians are called to forgive under any circumstance 7×70 but are we called to forget completely what happened to us with it? I want to forgive, and I believe through the grace of God that He will grant me a heart to forgive some people but I’m not sure if I can forget completely what they did. And I don’t mean by not forgetting I am constantly holding onto what they did over their head a d telling others but to simply forgive them and maybe avoid them, because I personally don’t want to be around people like that.


Answer:

The expression “forgive and forget” as such is not found in the Bible. However, it does express biblical truth. Let me explain. To forgive someone is truly an act of self-denial. When you forgive someone, you are making a conscious decision to communicate to the one who has offended you, and who is seeking your forgiveness, that the offense is removed once and for all. The reason I call forgiving someone an act of self-denial is because, at that moment, it may emotionally be the very last thing you wish to do. However, you do it because God’s Word clearly mandates that we grant forgiveness to those who ask for forgiveness.


Christ gives us explicit instruction regarding this in Luke 17:3-4, where He says, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” What is Christ saying here? He states that if the brother who has sinned against you repents and seeks your forgiveness, you are to forgive him immediately and unconditionally—even it happens seven times in a day.

Now let us address whether this also means that we are to forget the offense committed against us. The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” In the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35), Christ teaches that our willingness and readiness to forgive must be patterned after God’s desire and readiness to forgive. That means that Isaiah 43:25 is the pattern we must follow. Here God says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins [emphasis mine].” In other words, God forgives and forgets.


That begs the question: How can God not remember our sins when He is all-knowing and has an infinite memory? The answer is that God chooses not to remember the sins He forgives. That means that He consciously chooses that such sins have been permanently dealt with, and He will never hold the sinner accountable for them again. In fact, in Micah 7:19, we read that when God forgives sinners, He not only will blot out their sins, but He will “cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”—and thus never to be found again.

What does that mean for us practically? When we forgive someone, we must also make the conscious decision not to remember the sin this person has committed against us. That means that we must consciously demonstrate to the forgiven person that his offense has been erased and that we will never remind him of it. Thus, that also means that you will not seek to avoid that person and thereby let him/her know that you are ultimately not willing to move past the offense.


If we understand in any measure what it means to be forgiven by God, we will be very ready and willing to forgive those who have sinned against us. That’s why Jesus warns us, saying, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

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