Catholic Realist, Misunderstood Church, Universal Church Forgive and forget? Forget that! Posted on December 10, 2012 by ymkbird One of the 2nd graders who came out after his First Reconciliation said, “I’m so glad to get all that gunk cleaned out!” Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterLinkedInMoreTumblrRedditPinterestPrintLike this:Like Loading... Related
I think, though, that the disparity exists between our understanding of the temporal ramifications of sin and the eternal ramifications of sin.
The idea of “forgive and forget” from a human perspective can keep people in toxic relationships, neglect the emotional need to create distance after a wrong, and also ignore consistently hurtful actions between individuals. In short, “forgive and forget” does not acknowledge the temporal reality of sin. Actions have consequences, and we have to live and suffer through them – though this suffering can bring about grace.
Divine forgetfulness is another matter all together. Yes, Christ pays a debt that we ourselves cannot pay. However, upon paying that debt it is forgotten. God has no need to remember our sins or our offenses, and there are numerous places where this is expressed in scripture (notably Isaiah 43:25, 38:17; Romans 8:1; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12). That’s an important distinction to make – Jesus’ blood doesn’t just cover up our sins, it wipes them out. That isn’t to say that the temporal effect and reality of those sins is erased, because it certainly may not be, but that the eternal implications of that sin are wiped out.
I’ll use a legal example – in a court a verdict may be rendered “dismissed” for a charge. In this case, an action was committed that violated the law. However, just reparation was made for the action, and the court chose to “dismiss” the case, rather than render a verdict of guilty/not guilty. In our circumstances, God cannot find us “not guilty,” but a “guilty” verdict requires eternal punishment. Christ makes just reparation for our sentence, and the case is dismissed. A dismissal legally recognizes that a violation took place, but also “forgets” it. That is to say, a second offense is actually considered a first offense of the same charge.
This is how God works. Christ makes reparation for our sin and God forgets the eternal implications of our sins when we seek forgiveness. This dismissal works for multiple offenses, so long as we seek Christ as our defense.
The reason I bring this up at all is not to discredit your main point that “forgive and forget” isn’t always healthy, but that projecting the idea that God does not forget is equally dangerous. There is no greater tragedy than a soul that walks out of confession forgiven, but still believes God is holding onto the memory of his or her sin, and will bring it up later. God does “forgive and forget,” perhaps not in such simplistic terms, but His ability to render our case “dismissed” is important in understanding a small piece of a God whose ways are not our own.
That’s a great clarification, thank you! You’re right that when our debt is paid, God does indeed forget our sins. As Isaiah 23:25 says, “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.” What I see is people using this verse to set up an expectation that we also need to forget the sins of others. However, we are NOT infinitely just nor infinitely grace-filled, and therefore, our remembrance and forgetting has totally different meaning. Maybe time to write that “common misunderstandings of Christian words” book 🙂