"Forgiveness is an act of the will in which a person relinquishes any "right" to get even with an offender"~unknown
Did you know that the phrase 'forgive and forget' is not in the bible at all? It talks a lot about forgiving and a lot about forgetting but it never once says ‘forgive and forget’ in the same sentence. Maybe it is a sign that as humans we are not capable of doing both of those things at the same time? I sure hope so because it is HARD. Have you ever tried to do either one? Then you know it is no piece of cake...(chocolate cake with caramel topping and walnuts and cool whip with chocolate chips topped with ice cream and......... M & M's and.... crushed up Snickers Bars ..yuummmmm ..but I digress.).
Oh, it is pretty easy to say, "I forgive you because that is what Christ did for me" but somewhere--deep down inside--if you are completely honest...you know you are saying: ‘Yeah, I forgive you alright...but I can promise you this, I will Never Ever Ever Forget’!!! And maybe that's okay, maybe that is what prevents us from making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Like a built in defense mechanism to protect us from CRAZY!!! Right??
But what does the bible really say about forgiving and forgetting?
There's a whole bushel full of verses in the bible about forgiveness. Here's your top ten countdown:
#1 Because we are sinners we should forgive others
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (uhmmm…that is pretty strong language right there..and uh…I didn’t write it…so…look it up!)
#2 Be ready to forgive over and over again
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me, up to seven times?” Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times." (Whoooaaa...seventy times seven ?? Get back Jack..that is a LOT of times ..how many times is that?? Work out the math and get back to me..but I KNOW..it is a BUNCH!!)
#3 Confess and God will forgive you for your sins
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (Confessing to anything is hard..confessing to being or doing something wrong is harder…I know this ..first hand.)
#4 Love will lead to forgiving others
In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.” (Love will build a bridge…in the words the Judds or in the words of one of my favorite old gospel song "You're the only bible some people read" )
#5 Priority when it comes to forgiving others
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (I might need some guidance on this one…but it pretty much sounds like if we do not forgive those who have hurt us…we can’t expect a whole lot of acceptance from God…so if we are holding a grudge or pouting..we are pretty much separating ourselves from our Heavenly Father..whew..that’s deep)
#6 Forgive others rather than judge others
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (No commentary necessary)
#8 Jesus is our Model
When they came to a place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (the mega super duper example)
#9 Jesus’ command to us
So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says , ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (There's that math problem again and even more practice for patience, mercy and grace).
#10 How to treat enemies
... “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (I am soooo not making this stuff up..seriously…check it out. It is right there in Romans 12:20...He said you gotta feed your enemy and give him something to drink. Absolutely nothing...notta...not a single thing about blowing his brains out legally by ‘standing your ground.)
Now…If you were paying close attention, you will notice that #7 is missing. You know why? Well, I will tell you why...and here it is...
#7 A remarkable example of forgiveness
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen was the first known martyr for the Christian faith and he prayed and asked God to please forgive those who were stoning him to death--and then he had peace and ‘fell asleep.’ WOW…double –triple-- quadtriple- -WOW! It was like he could not let go and leave this world until those who had harmed him …were forgiven. Take that in for a moment…yes…take a deep breath and let that sink in for a moment or two. He said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…Lord, do not hold this sin against THEM”….against THEM??? That is what Stephen was praying before he was stoned to death?? He didn’t say “look what injustice they have done…Lord I hope you are going to heap a ton of Karma on their head". He did not whine and complain to God about how he was being accused falsely and tortured, he simply prayed a selfless prayer of forgiveness for his enemy-- just as Jesus had prayed, ‘Father, forgive them’ on the cross.
Stephen was being ‘Christ-like’. You know …that other word for “Christian” the one that has nothing to do with your church attendance or numbers or money or who you voted for or did not vote for? Remember that message? The Good News? Being like Jesus, acting like Jesus, encompassing the essence of Jesus? Sharing the message of love and faith, of grace and mercy and of forgiveness and maybe one day, although it seems impossible at times, we might also learn to 'forget'. Maybe we really can overcome our human nature to recall every wrong done to us or against us by others who wear the same robe of flesh that we wear and realize we ALL make mistakes and at some point we ALL need to be forgiven.
Jesus was the example..He lived it..He breathed it..He suffered through it…and He taught us the way and yet we still think we know better. We think if someone does us wrong we have every right to do wrong right back. That is certainly not what the bible teaches about Jesus. We think we need more and bigger and better guns to protect us from our enemies. But when Jesus was at risk of losing His life on this earth he told his disciples 'two swords is ENOUGH.' --Luke 22:38 “And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough!!!)
And when people try to convince me that it is God's will that we go into a war…all I can think about is what Jesus said --Matthew 26:51-52-- And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword".
I am no theologian or bible scholar..but there is no way to take those strong statements out of context. Jesus' life was on the line..it would have been self-defense and more than qualify for ‘stand your ground.’ He could have called ten thousand angels…he could have have formed a mighty army, he could have done anything he wanted to do…but he came to live among men...as a man..who would face every temptation we faced and would show us how we could overcome without violence. Not only did he sacrifice his life on the cross---because it did not start there and it certainly did not end there---Jesus was teaching us a lesson about how to live, about forgiveness, about putting others before ourselves. It was the ultimate gift of love and the ultimate example of forgiveness.
And what about that whole 'forgetting' thingy...well...here is my favorite verse and I hope this is one of those things we will NEVER forget:
"Brethren, I could not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do--forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before."~Philippians 3:13
Stop looking back...you are not going that way..~Squirrely Girl