Forgive and forget

Matthew 6:25 – 7:5

Have you noticed how, as you get older, your memory gets worse? You walk into a room and don’t know why you are there. You turn around and cannot remember the name of the person you were just talking to. Not only have you forgotten where you put your car keys, you can’t remember where the car is. You eventually find the keys in the car, which you left in its normal spot, and you drive into town. But now you can’t remember who you are meeting, or where. Or even if you are late or early.

There are downsides to memory loss and there are upsides. It saves a lot of money on books, because you can just read the same one over and over.

I’m told that this process of memory loss starts when you are in your mid 20s. For most of you, your best years are already behind you. But don’t worry, you won’t remember how good your memory was. It’s not an illness, it’s just a natural process.

In actual fact, forgetting is a blessing from God.

If we didn’t forget the traumas in our lives, we would soon become emotional cripples. People who are unable to forget awful experiences, such as victims of rape or torture, experience living hell. They keep reliving the most awful moments of their life over and over again.

This is what happened with Robert Park, who was tortured by the North Koreans after he walked into their nation to declare God’s message to them. Even now he is daily tormented by the horror of what happened to him, and has been driven to suicide.

Scientists do say, however, that no one actually forgets anything. It is all stored in our brains forever. What we actually lose, except in cases of brain damage, is our ability to recall our memories. The memories are still in here, but we have mislaid them.

Our fourth law of spiritual success is ‘Remember to Forget’.

This is the deliberate act of marking some memories with a tag that says ‘do not recall’. Do not resuscitate this memory. Stop thinking about this past experience. Forget it.

What the Bible says is this: 1 Corinthians 13:5 – keep no record of being wronged; Psalm 119:165 – love so you won’t stumble over offences; Matthew 7:1-5 – don’t harbour a judgemental attitude.

Our spiritual health depends on our ability to forget the hurts and betrayals and injuries inflicted on us by others. Not remove them from our memory, but deal with them in a way that makes them powerless. We won’t change the facts, but we can alter how we view the facts and how we feel about them.

How many marriages have been destroyed by people who refused to forget? How many congregations have been split over small issues that should have been forgotten? When we decide we aren’t going to keep score. When we put away our hit lists. Then God gives us his divine power to live free from bitterness and resentment.

Do you remember Joseph son of Isaac? He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, and sold to slave traders. He was betrayed by a lustful woman, and tossed into a foreign prison. He was suddenly made the second most powerful person in Egypt.

Joseph had good reason to keep a list of enemies. When Joseph had a son, he gave him the name Manasseh. Genesis 41:51 – Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.”

‘Manasseh’ means “to cause to forget, allow to be forgotten”.

Some people believe this is an entirely natural process. It is why we have the saying ‘time heals’. Over time the open wound of bereavement becomes the scar of loss. We find the hard edge of the feelings, for which we can never really prepare, have dulled and the pain has faded.

But this natural process alone cannot deal with all the hurts and betrayals of life. Joseph named his son Manasseh because he recognised a supernatural process at work.

In addition to natural forgetfulness there is God’s process of helping us to deal with the nasty and unpleasant situations of our past. With God’s healing hand at work, those unpleasant past events no longer rankle our soul.

Sigmund Freud said, ‘The mind will return again and again to that which gives it pain.’

But when God replaces the source of pain with his peace, the mind is at last able to escape from this prison. It can at long last get out of this hell.

Do you have a problem with remembering to forget? Is there some area of your life, some past hurt, that has trapped you? Have you been deeply sinned against? Has someone libelled you, or slandered you? Has a person you trusted betrayed you?

Has someone you loved done a terrible injury to you? Do you nurse feelings of revenge? Do you hope that justice will come, and that they will one day experience what you are going through now?

If you said ‘yes’, then this is for you. I beg you to follow the advice God gives. For your sake, decide right now to deal with this today. For God’s sake, do not delay. However right you are about the wrong inflicted, however justified you are to feel this resentment, it is poison. It is killing you. It has taken you a prisoner and locked you in a spiritual cell.

Every Christian has to be three things: a giver, a forgiver, and a forgetter.

The secret to being a ‘forgetter’ is to first be a ‘forgiver’. If you refuse to let God help you to forgive, he will be unable to help you forget. You will have blocked his way. If you are willing, then he is able.

It isn’t easy to forgive such big things. It’s one of those things that seem a nice idea for other people, but not for us when we have someone to forgive. But God will help us.

Forgiving is not a nice idea. It is an actual command from God. You must forgive. God says you ‘must’. Colossians 3:13 – ‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.’

Perhaps that seems unreasonable. Perhaps it seems as though God doesn’t realise just how deeply you have been hurt, and how impossible his request is. You cannot do it.

Jesus says why you must forgive. Matthew 6:15 – “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

I leave you with the example of Pastor Sohn Yang-won, whose twin sons were brutally murdered in 1948 by a leftist student named Ahn Jae-sun. Sohn took the murderer into his own home and adopted him as his son. For many years Yeosu has been remembered by Korea’s Christians as the home of this remarkable pastor and the example he gave us all of how to forgive.

This is Pastor Sohn’s prayer at the funeral of his two boys:

My God, I thank you, for having allowed martyrs to be born in the family of sinners such as mine.
첫째, 나 같은 죄인의 혈통에서 순교의 자식들이 나오게 하셨으니 감사합니다.

My Lord, I thank you for having entrusted me, out of countless believers, with such precious treasures.
둘째, 허다한 많은 성도들 중에 이런 보배들을 내게 맡겨 주셨음을 감사합니다.

Among my three sons and three daughters, I thank you for my blessings through which I could offer you my two most beautiful children, my oldest and second oldest sons.
셋째, 3남 3녀 중에서도 가장 아름다운 두 아들 장자와 차자를 바치게 된 나의 축복을 감사합니다.

I thank you for the martyrdom for two of my children, when the martyrdom of one child in itself is much more precious than I could bear.
넷째, 한 아들의 순교도 귀하다 하거늘 하물며 두 아들이 순교하게됨을 감사합니다.

I thank you for the martyrdom of my sons who were shot to death while they were preaching the gospel, when dying peacefully on his deathbed in itself is a tremendous blessing for a believer.
다섯째, 예수 믿다가 누워 죽는 것도 큰 복인데 전도하다 총살 순교당함을 감사합니다.

I thank you for my heart is at peace as my sons, who had been preparing to go and study in America, are now in a place that is much better than America.
여섯째, 미국 유학 가려고 준비하던 내 아들, 미국보다 더 좋은 천국에 갔으니 내 마음이 안심되어 감사합니다.

God, I thank you for giving me a heart of love for repentance of the enemy who murdered my sons and compelling me to adopt him as my own son.
일곱째, 나의 사랑하는 두 아들을 총살한 원수를 회개시켜 내 아들 삼고자 하는 사랑의 마음을 주신 하나님께 감사합니다.

My Father God, I thank you for there will now be countless more sons of heaven through the fruit of the martyrdom of my sons.
여덟째, 내 두 아들의 순교로 말미암아 무수한 천국의 아들들이 생길 것이 믿어지니 감사합니다.

I thank and thank our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given me these eight truths in times of such adversity, the joyful heart seeking faith and love, and the faith that provides me with composure.
아홉째, 이 같은 역경 중에서 이상 8가지 진리와 하나님의 사랑을 찾는 기쁜 마음, 여유 있는 믿음 주신 주님께 감사합니다. 열번째, 이렇듯 과분한 축복 누리게 되는 것을 감사합니다.


About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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