I’m sure we have all heard the phrase “forgive and forget” used. And we often hear it used by believers. But I wonder how many of us think of forgetting in this context from a biblical perspective.
Here is the question: Are we biblically required to forget what others have done? How in the world are we to do this?
Some people get the idea of forgetting the sins of others from some of the language that the Bible uses when it speaks of how God forgives us.
“I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
If God remembers our sins no more, that must mean that he forgets them, right? Yes and no. Take a look at this verse in Psalm 79, and perhaps it will help.
Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
The psalmist here prays that God would not remember the people’s sins against them. That is different than forgetting that the sins took place. The request is not asking God to blot a thing out of his memory, but to not remember the sins so as to use that memory against the people.
If a man sins by driving recklessly, crashes his car, and injures himself, he can certainly be forgiven. God will not remember his sin against him so as to punish him for it once it is forgiven. But I would not suggest that God then wonders to himself how that man got hurt. The driving and the crash are not data deleted from God’s memory banks. But God actively chooses not to remember that sin against the man so as to hurt him with the memory.
God forgets our sin by actively making a choice not to bring that sin up against us. When we forgive and forget, we can only forgive in a similar way. You cannot, to my knowledge, force a memory from your brain. But you can make a commitment not to bring a thing up against another person in order to do them harm. That is biblical forgetting when it comes to forgiveness.