Is “Forgive and Forget” Biblical?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about conflict resolution and unity in youth group. The first step towards peace is to live with the desire to Glorify God, because you never know when conflict will strike. The second step is to Get the Log Out Of Your Own Eye by prayerfully asking God to show you if you have anything you need to confess. Since the goal of peacemaking is unity, the third step is to Gently Restore. The final step is to Go Get Reconciled with your friend. Below is the final wrapup, addressing the “messier” situations that are more complicated. 

We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been forgiven. We’ve all needed to be forgiven.

But I seriously doubt we’ve forgotten.

“Forgive and forget” sounds good advice until you’re the one hearing it. Then, when it’s personal and when the hurt is deep, it seems like you’re expected to do something impossible. And for the Christian, it begs the question: Is “forgive and forget” biblical?

cloud over mountainsHow God Forgave Us
Praise God we serve a forgiving God! The Bible teaches that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “There is no one on earth who is righteous” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). You can say you’re a pretty good person, but the fact is no one has perfectly kept all of God’s commands – and if you’re guilty of one… then you’re still guilty.

Jesus died on the cross in order to forgive our sins and to remove the judgment we earned for ourselves (Romans 6:23).  We have been forgiven and washed clean through faith in Jesus Christ, “There is… no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Jesus was crucified and nailed to the cross. When he rose from the grave, we know he still had nail holes in his hands. We know this, because Jesus showed them to Thomas when he said he wouldn’t believe Jesus rose unless he saw them and touched them. (John 21:24-29)

Jesus’ “resurrection body” still had scars. He remembered the sin for which he died. He remembered Thomas’ doubt. He perfectly forgave and remembered.

Forgiveness & Trust
Over the last few weeks we’ve talked a lot about forgiveness and reconciliation. God’s children are commanded to do as Christ did: to forgive and reconcile, even if it requires great sacrifice.

We can give forgiveness to those who hurt us. Sometimes forgiveness can take a long time to really give, and that’s ok. The deeper the offense, the longer it will take before you can really forgive that person. Don’t rush it. It’s ok to say, “I want to forgive you, and I’m trying to. But I’m just not ready yet, I need more time.”

Trust, however, is earned. Maybe the person simply isn’t trustworthy. If you were foolish enough to trust them, don’t be foolish enough to forgive and forget then trust them again! For the most part, forgiveness means you give someone the opportunity to regain your trust, but that starts in small things and grows as people show us we can trust them.

“He who walks with the wise becomes wise. A companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). If you suffered harm because you were hanging out with fools, then forgive them but don’t start walking with them again!

When To Create Space
There are times when you need to forgive and create space between yourself and the person you’ve forgiven.

  1. When you fear for your safety. If you are in an abusive relationship… get out! If there is abuse in your home, tell someone and get somewhere safe. Abusers always apologize and promise it won’t happen again. Remember, trust is earned.
  2. When there is potential for arrest or serious punishment. Don’t be a companion of fools and let them bring you harm. Even if you don’t start doing all the same things they do, they will still drag you down. Is that really who you want to give your time to?
  3. When there is no respect for your faith in Christ. Do your friends take every opportunity to mock your Christian faith? That’s not what friends should do. If your friends try to provoke you because of your faith, then you will eventually respond harshly.

Pray for Wisdom
Life is really complicated. Relationships are messy. We all need to pray for wisdom and live with a heart commitment towards glorifying God. If we are faithfully praying for wisdom and with a desire to glorify God in all things, we will be equipped to know how to live as peacemakers.

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