Hello, dear friends! We are entering a busy season. I pray that you are able to find God’s peace even in the midst of your circumstances. November is the perfect month to nurture a spirit of gratitude. I am thankful for this community that is so wise and loving.
Today’s Question: Can you help? I maintain that we are to remember what people have done to us so that we learn and protect ourselves but some people in my Bible study are trying to convince me that in Hebrews 8: 11-12, because we have the Lord within us we also have his power to forget past sins. I don't think this is wise especially when people aren't working on their sins, for me it just opens me to another painful episode. I have worked very hard to institute boundaries and express displeasure over ill-treatment and to now hear this teaching, it is counterproductive to me. Do you have any insights for me? Thank you.
Susan’s Response: I am so sorry you are feeling pressured by those who are called to love and support you to forget the wrongs that have been done to you. It is so important to seek truth and decide for yourself what the heart of God is really saying. I hope I can provide some clarity and thoughts for you to consider as you seek God’s will and His heart in this matter.
There is no doubt that forgiveness is an act of obedience to God. As believers, God instructs us to let go of wrongs and turn them over to Him for our benefit. Remember it is for our benefit that he calls us to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” -Ephesians 4:31-32. Bitterness destroys. He wants us to live in alignment with who we are in Christ. For these reasons, you are urged to choose forgiveness. Nowhere in the Bible are we urged to forget.
We might consider two types of forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness involves making a conscious choice and undergoing a process in order to accept the impact and harm someone else’s actions have caused. In a sense, you are enduring the cost of someone else’s sin without any retaliatory action and trusting God to make all things right in His time. This is the example Christ gave us on the cross. Yet it does not mean you should keep enduring harm. (Proverbs 22:3)
Emotional forgiveness is the work of replacing negative emotions toward the person who has wronged you with positive ones which are created out of a repaired relationship, rebuilt trust, and a new pattern of behavior. This is a biological response to restoration, not merely a decision. Even so, when we are no longer emotionally reactive toward memories, our minds can still remember.
I believe God urges us toward decisional forgiveness. Emotional forgiveness, or the rebuilding of trust, can happen when amends are made and restitution has happened in the relationship. This allows the body to relax and put aside old memories and focus more on memories the new relationship patterns have created.
When we try or others try to force emotional forgiveness, several negative results may occur. The results are likely to be prolonged or continuation of abuse, guilt and shame, feelings of helplessness, revictimization, isolation, and social distancing.
The body remembers even when you’d rather forget. As human beings, our bodies are hardwired for survival and safety. This is God’s design. Humans were not created to forget what could be harmful.
Because sin is a part of our lives, our bodies carry the effects. Science reveals that our bodies absorb the effects of trauma. Trauma is shown to get encoded into our DNA and gets passed down to our children. Not surprisingly, the Bible speaks about the generational effects of sin in Exodus 20:5. Unresolved issues get handed down from generation to generation.
There are several verses that state the Lord will remember our sins no more. In addition to Hebrews 8:11-12, Isaiah 43:25 and Jeremiah 31:34 also speak of God no longer remembering the sin of believers. So what does this mean? Does it mean if you really have a heart that is occupied by the Holy Spirit, you will have the power to forget wrongs as well?
I want to take a closer look at the word remember. When scripture notes that God remembers, it is followed by an active response. In Genesis 8, God remembered Noah and all that were with him; God acted to move the wind and closed the heavens so that the waters subsided. He took action for the sake of Noah’s welfare. The same is true in Genesis 30:22 when God remembered Rachel and opened her womb. There are many Old Testament examples of the active form of remembering for the sake of God’s people.
So what does it mean when God says He will not remember? Does an all-knowing God actually forget? In scripture when God remembered, He acted. When God promised not to remember, He wasn’t saying He would no longer have memory of our sins. He was saying that because of the saving work of His son, Jesus, He now acts based on that truth for believers. We no longer live under the law where we are trying to create external cleansing through sacrifice. Under the new covenant, we are internally cleansed through the saving and sacrificial work of Christ once and for all. Because it is finished, God does not need to remember our sins; He already acted on our behalf.
When God thinks of His believers, He sees us through the beautiful and loving work of Christ on the cross, with our sins wiped clean. God chooses to put our wrongs and imperfections out of his mind and yet He remains omnipotent.
Only The God of Perfection (2 Samuel 22:21) deserves our full trust. Human beings are imperfect by nature. Even though the work of changing believers' hearts is already completed forever, we also live on earth as though we are not yet fully changed. We are living in the “already not yet”. There will come a time when all things are made new and peace prevails. Until then, I don’t believe it is wise or truly possible to forget what has brought harm.
To read more on the topic of why it is important not to forget even when you have forgiven, click here.
Beloved Reader, what insights do you have? Can we and should we forget the wrongs that have been done against us by our loved ones?
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