Forgive and Forgive and Forgive
Tom and Jack are co-workers on the swing shift at Dirk’s Doumafladgie Manufacturing. Two weeks ago, a horrible explosion at the plant left Jack trapped in an interior room with a wall of fire blocking his only exit. Further complicating the matter, the explosion caused sufficient injury to Jack’s legs that he was incapable of walking his way out of the plant on his own.
On the other side of the fire, Tom was able to assess the situation, grabbed a blanket for protection and made his way through the wall of fire to rescue his co-worker. Once there, Tom threw Jack over his shoulder, covered both men with the protective blanket, and carried Jack through the fire and out of the plant to safety.
Fast-forward two weeks to today — Tom is visiting Jack in the hospital where Jack is recovering from his injuries. At some point in their conversation, Jack says, “Tom, I owe you my life, man. I really wanna thank you for what you did.” In response, Tom says, “Awe, it was nothing you wouldn’t have done for me, Jack. Forget about it.”
Is Tom daft? How can he possibly tell Jack to forget about what he had done. Tom risked his own life to save the life of a coworker. There is no way someone “forgets” something like that.
What is Tom really saying to Jack when he says, “Forget about it”?
Forget About It
The Bible speaks in several places of God forgiving and forgetting our sin. For example:
I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins. — Isaiah 43.25, NASB
A quote like that tends to launch me into logic hiccup spasms. How can an omniscient God not know something? How can the ultimate, infinite being not remember?
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
‘This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days,’ declares the Lord:
‘I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,’
then he adds,
‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ — Hebrews 10:14–17, ESV
These passages state unequivocally that God does not remember our sins. But God is omniscient. God knows everything and forgets nothing. How do we reconcile God’s omniscience with God remembering our sins no more?
Let’s return to our hypothetical with Jack and Tom. When Jack thanked Tom for saving his life, and Tom responded by saying “Forget about it,” what Tom was telling Jack is, “You don’t owe me anything for this. You are not indebted to me.”
When God “forgets about it,” or “remembers our sins no more,” God is choosing to take the same position as Tom — “You are no longer indebted to me.” Short of age-related dementia, Jack will never lose the memory of Tom saving his life, but he can “forget about it” in the sense that he is not indebted to Tom for his having done so.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. — Ephesians 4:32, NASB
Our call to forgive others as God has forgiven us demands that we release our offenders with a “forget about it.” They owe us nothing. We release them from any indebtedness to us. It’s not that we are not able to recall the offenses (though in some cases you’ll find that you do forget) but rather that we make the choice to release, to overlook, to cancel any debt toward us.
It’s a Done Deal
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. — 1 Peter 3:18a, NIV-1978
All sin, for all people, for all time. This is what the writer of Hebrews referenced when he said, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, ESV). It is a one-time sacrifice that completely removes sin.
The apostle Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Absolutely none! My sinfulness, past, present, future, has no condemning impact on my standing before our holy God. I am declared righteous in Christ, by the power of his blood and resurrection.
As Christ-followers, this same principle holds true in our forgiveness of others. We declare them to be “non-offenders” and it is a done deal. We do not hold the offense in reserve just in case we feel the need to pull it out at some future date. Forgiven is forgiven and done is done.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9, ESV
God is faithful to forgive us, and having forgiven us to cleanse us, or purify us. Nothing is held in reserve, or held over our heads. God frees us. In this, we can appropriate the beautiful imagery of King Hezekiah and say, “you have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17b).
Forgive, brothers and sisters. Forgive and forgive and forgive.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Victoriously in Christ!