Forgiving someone for an offense done against us is an unnatural act; remembering the offense is natural. Ironically, God asks us to do the unnatural and forgo the natural. Forgiving does not require forgetting, no matter what people tell you.

But doesn’t God forgive and forget our sins? What about the following passages?

Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

Hebrews 8:12: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  

Now I want you to notice carefully that none of these passages  or others like them actually say that God forgets our sins. What they say is that He does not remember them. “Oh, come on,” some might say, “You are splitting hairs now.” I don’t think so.

Suppose you owe me a million dollars and I forgive your debt. Suppose further that in order for me to forgive your debt I had to literally impoverish myself. Do you think I would simply erase the memory of my loss from my mind? I doubt it. Every time one of my children reminded me that she can only purchase one pair of shoes every twelve months, I would tend to think of the million dollars I used to have. But because I decided to forgive the debt, I choose to let go of that memory.

Remembering things is human. In fact, remembering might even be healthy in some situations. We must confront our “ghosts of Christmas past” in order to move forward to a more hopeful future. The problem only comes if we allow memories of our past experiences to plague us or paralyze us through fear, resentment or anger. Having a bad memory is not the problem. Nurturing or massaging one is.

The reason God can choose not to remember our offense is that He also became poor in order to forgive. In Christ God became a man and suffered like mortals do. He was despised, rejected, spit upon, ridiculed, paraded around as the picture of defeat. But instead of retaliating, He forgave the offense. Instead of crushing His offenders, He walked humbly as a lamb to the slaughter house. Peter speaks of this when he says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23).

But now that Christ is in heaven robed in glory, when God looks at our offenses, even though He is well aware of them, He chooses not to remember them because He is looking at us through the screen of His Messiah, who impoverished Himself so we could be forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future. That is the reason God is justified not to remember.

Now the enemy will try to trip you up here. He will ambush you with a flash back of some wrong done to you in the past. You should not worry about that. Our brains are incredible computers capable of storing millions of bites of information per second. Remembering something that happened to you 20 years ago is frankly a sign of being human. Don’t fret, don’t get down on yourself, don’t retaliate. Only forgive.

God, in His infinite power, may choose to wipe out entire chunks of bad memories from our hard drive. If He does it, rejoice, for He is able. But if you happen to have a flash back, make sure you leave it where it belongs – in the past, not in the present.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA