Forgiveness and Forgetting – July 5, 2014
Whether or not I should forgive someone who has not asked to be forgiven is not just up to me. Added to that question is even if I have the willingness to forgive, do I have to promise to forget?
Forgiveness not only marks the end of an event, but it is the beginning of an opportunity for change in the life of the offender and the offended.
The was played out in a courtroom in Ventura County this week when the family of a slain school administrator stood before the 23-year old offender and her family and told her she was forgiven. The offender was guilty of a life-changing, lawless and criminal act. The judge was so moved by this act of boundless generosity, he had to leave the courtroom before he could return to pronounce sentence.
The offender was sentenced and justly so. Our country’s law requires it. The hallmarks of forgiveness require this family to do several things. First, they must not bring up the offense again. They will certainly talk about the accident, the death and the sorrow but they will not continue to condemn her.
Biblical forgiveness involves the promise to not hold this offense over her head, to continue to punish and condemn her. They must not talk to others about her offense. Will they relive the tragedy and grieve forever? Are their lives unalterably changed? Absolutely.
They also promise to not dwell on the offense so there is no opportunity to rebuild the case against her.
It is impossible to imagine this family’s deliberate act of forgiveness will not have a life changing impact on the offender. With this change come opportunities that will make forgetting possible. As the cycle develops over time beginning with the problem, flowing to forgiveness to the awareness of “fruit” developing as the result, the ability to forget multiplies.
Some believe that it is hypocritical to forgive the offender with no intention of forgetting the offense. We have obligations to fulfill in this area. This is found is the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 where we are commanded to do just that. In fact, even if someone offends us or in Biblical terms, sins against us seven times in one day, Jesus said to forgive them seventy times seven. The changes in the heart of those forgiven will lead to “forgetting” as a natural consequence in the heart and mind of those who forgive.
Those who do not see the Bible as the authority for right living won’t view this in the same way Christians do. But every world view and belief system has the practice of forgiveness as an open door to a kinder and more gentle future with benefits for everyone.