Forgiveness is a very important concept for Christians. It’s one of the basic tenets of our religion. Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins, and through Him, we receive the grace of God’s forgiveness.
God forgives us freely and does it without any expectation other than our acceptance of His Son. Through Jesus, our slate is wiped clean. While He doesn’t forget anything, He doesn’t hold our sins against us. We’re expected to forgive others in that same spirit.
That’s often a challenge when someone hurts us deeply. It’s hard enough to forgive them, let alone to forget about how they wronged us. Granted, you can’t just wipe an incident from your mind, but true forgiveness means letting it go. Once you release it, it’s forgotten in the sense that it’s no longer at the forefront of your mind, and it no longer holds emotional power over you.
Putting True Forgiveness into Practice
That sounds good in theory, but when you try to put it into action, human nature intervenes. You see someone who wronged you and the old anger takes hold. You know you should let it go because it usually hurts you more than it hurts the other person. Still, you feel your blood pressure rise, and your resentment boils over.
What can you do to change your reaction and truly forgive and release the bad memory? Jesus provides us with some great examples. One of the most powerful is the story of the adulteress told in the Book of John. When she is about to be stoned, Jesus intervenes:
But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” —John 8:7
No matter how angry we are at another person, we should remember that we’re not without sin ourselves. Surely at some point we’ve wronged another person or hurt them as deeply as we’ve been hurt. How can we hold a grudge when we’re not blameless? Shouldn’t we show the same mercy on others that we would like for ourselves?
More Examples From Jesus
Jesus also demonstrated forgiveness with His Apostles. It never got in the way of His relationship with them. He knew Peter would betray him three times before the cock crowed despite Peter’s insistence that he would never do such a thing. Imagine how much that must have hurt, yet Jesus simply accepted it.
Jesus also knew that Judas was going to betray Him, yet He didn’t reject him and cast him out of the inner group. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us explicitly that Jesus forgave Judas, we see no anger or rejection in His actions, just sadness and acceptance.
Forgiving Those Who Don’t Care
Sometimes another person hurts us badly and doesn’t care about getting our forgiveness. That causes a deep wound when it’s someone we care about, and maybe even a family member. This is a time when it’s particularly important to follow Jesus’s example.
In this case, the forgiveness benefits us even if it’s meaningless to the other person. It gives us a measure of peace that helps ease the pain. When we let go, the problem is not erased from our minds, but it’s in God’s hands. It doesn’t have to burden us any longer because we’ve turned it over.
At some point, the other person may be open to renewing a relationship with you. When you’ve already forgiven them and worked through the hurt, you’re ready to let that happen. Sometimes, the relationship may be a lost cause. In that case, the forgiveness allows you to accept the situation.
Forgetting Means Truly Letting Go
Sometimes we hang on to that grudge even when the other person asks for our forgiveness. We do it out of spite, stubbornness, or pride. In the end, we only hurt ourselves by hanging on to a destructive feeling and destroying our own peace of mind.
Ephesians sums it up very succinctly:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. —Ephesians 4:31-32
The concept of forgive and forget doesn’t work when you see it as a trite phase taken at face value. When you dig a little deeper and see what the Bible has to say, and how Jesus Himself lived this principle, it makes more sense and becomes more doable.