Forgive and Forget - Part 2
Last week we discussed what it means to forgive and why forgiveness is important for both the sinner and the one sinned against. We saw how sin is a burden when one forgives that burden is lifted, carried, or taken away. This week we are looking at the phrase forgive and forget or as Yeshua said for us to “turn the other cheek”.
The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found the Scriptures. The closest we come is when we are told that the Father forgives us and that He will no longer remember our sins (Isaiah 43:25). Let’s be honest, while the Father may be able to forget our sins, it’s far more difficult for us to forgive and forget when someone sins against us. Despite our own shortcomings, Yeshua tells us that we should forgive a person 70 times 7 times when we are sinned against (Matthew 18:21-22). Even beyond this, Yeshua even goes so far as to tell us to “turn the other cheek” in Matthew 5:39, but what do these instructions mean, practically for us today?
Forgiving and Forgetting
First let’s look at the realistic expectation of the phrase, “forgive and forget”. In a fallen, imperfect world we are capable of taking great offense when someone sins against us. We can take such offense that we do not want to forgive, much less forget, but instead hold a grudge against the person. Not only do we not forget and forgive the person, but we don’t let them forget what they did; instead we continue to repeatedly remind them.. Unfortunately this is damaging to both parties as described in last week’s post relating to unforgiveness. When we don’t forgive someone, we continue to hold those grudges and remind them of the wrong they did, essentially expecting them to repay the debt they owe us time and time again; then when they do repay the debt, we say that it’s not good enough and proceed to remind them one more time of what they did and how we feel about it. This cycle of unforgiveness prevents us from moving into the process of forgetting. In our own way, we are even exacting revenge on the individuals through our constant reminding. However, when we truly forgive someone, we can begin the long process of “forgetting” the offense.
It’s important to keep in mind that while we should strive to forget the offenses against us as our Heavenly Father does for us, it doesn’t mean that we foolishly put ourselves into a situation where the sin against us can easily be repeated. We are also to be wise as serpents; a serpent isn’t going to put itself out in the open where a predator will easily get it repeatedly. Forgetting an offense against us is a much longer process than forgiving, and the amount of time it takes to forget is tied to the severity of the offense. For example, if someone steals an apple from you and you find out about it, it’s far easier to forgive and forget that offense than if someone comes into your home and steals your television or some prized possession. Even so, Yeshua tell us to forgive an offense 70 x 7 times; this is likely not meaning forgive a person 490 times and then you can hold it against them. Instead the heart of the matter here is to forgive them as many times as they sin against you, even if it’s 490 times (or more)!
Turning the Other Cheek
Besides continually forgiving someone when they sin against you, we are also told by Yeshua to turn the other cheek, give them your coat also when they steal your shirt, etc. (Matthew 5). Is Yeshua telling us to become passive and just let someone do whatever they want with us? Of course not! Yeshua never taught us to be passive; he was not passive when it came to those sinning against God. For instance repeatedly and publicly spoke out against the religious leaders of the day. He even took a whip to those made the temple a den of thieves! However, when someone sinned against Him personally, those He forgave and “turned the other cheek”. He wanted reconciliation with them! Even when He was being crucified He asked the Father to forgive them!
Yeshua says in Matthew 5:39 not to resist an evil person just before He tells us to offer the other cheek. The Greek word for “resist” is anthistemi, which means “to set oneself against, to oppose” according to blueletterbible.org. If you set yourself against someone, there is no hope of reconciliation; indeed, you have made them your adversary! You are setting yourself against the flesh when our battle is not to be against flesh and blood! What hope of reconciliation is there when you have made someone your adversary? How can you love them when you are against them? It’s nearly impossible! What Yeshua is telling us here is that we still need to be able to forgive someone, even if they strike us! We turn the other cheek instead of taking vengeance on them or responding in kind. Remember, Yeshua is operating with the parameters set up by the Creator in how to treat one another.
Choosing to Love
Is obedience not greater than sacrifice? While the Torah states what one does to a person can be done to them, it does not mean that forgiveness is not possible. If Yahweh was to exact His vengeance upon us each time we sinned against Him, there would be no one left alive; there would be no forgiveness for us! The greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor; making someone an adversary is not loving them. Yeshua continues on this same topic when in verse 44 of chapter 5 He reminds us to love our neighbor, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. We will have enemies, people who are against us, but we are not to make them our enemies when they sin against us. They will be enemies by their choice; even then they are not truly against us, but against Yeshua, against the Torah.
If we truly love our Creator, we will strive to follow His Word, His example of Yeshua in the flesh. This example includes forgiving and forgetting the sins of others against us. While it is against our human, sinful nature to forgive and forget, it is a choice we are to make that brings freedom to us and those who sin against us, just as we received freedom when the Father forgives us. It’s a natural reaction for us to want to strike out and harm those who hurt us, or to hold a grudge, but the higher road, the narrow path is to learn to first forgive the individual, then forget the sins against us. When we forgive others we take away the barrier between us and them allowing them to see the Creator’s love and we remove the barrier between us and the Father freeing Him to forgive us our offenses against Him. This is no easy task, but it is the higher calling of loving our neighbor as Yahweh first loved us by sending His son to die in order that our sins may be taken away from us and allowing the restoration of our relationship with Him.
We hope that this has blessed you. Remember, continue to test everything.