Forgive and Forget?

Bonnie, in her links post @ Intellectuelle, directed attention to a post on forgiveness @ Between Two Worlds: ” Is Forgiveness Always Right and Required?”

I read it and the comments. I am still thinking about it. It relates somewhat to what I have written in the last post on quietness and confidence, and I think you must have a certain amount of the displacement that forgiveness causes in order to operate in the “quietness and confidence” that the scripture in Isaiah admonishes.

One reason that Justin Taylor balks, “I am unpersuaded, however, that Sande’s first promise—that I will not think about this incident—is biblically required”, resides in his desire to retain a sense of what is just:

Based upon all that we’ve seen, this question remains in my mind: Is it possible for a Christian to remain fully obedient to Scripture, with kindness and tenderheartedness, loving his enemy as himself, and yet at the same time not granting forgiveness to an unrepentant offender?

From what I can discern from the evidence in the Bible, and from what the Westminster Confession of Faith calls “good and necessary consequence,” I’m persuaded that the answer is yes. “Love your enemies” is something that we should do at all times and in all places. It is modeled after God’s love for his enemies, whom he loves even when they are “unjust” and “evil” (Luke 6:35). At the same time, our forgiveness of others is likewise modeled upon God’s forgiveness of sinners, whom he forgives conditioned upon their repentance. God does not forgive apart from repentance; neither should we. In major offenses, we are not to forgive the unrepentant.

I am not sure this is even possible, let alone a clear representation of what is required. I say that as someone who is in the midst of situations where I must battle to forgive some very personal betrayals and attacks. I hate that I have to forgive, it upsets my sense of justice… but at the same time I am faced with my own deep need of being forgiven for wrongs I have indeed committed through my own blindness or pride, or whatever it is that has created my actions.

I don’t believe God meant for us to completely forget, or He would have worded it that way, but neither are we let off the hook of truly forgiving. And here is the rub in that: it will make us vulnerable to yet another wrong by the unrepentant person. When we are told to be in peace as much as it lies with us I think that I times we must remove ourselves from those who continually choose to wrong us. Nothing says we have to stand there and take what they serve up, infinitely. Jesus did actually forgive the unrepentant when being nailed to His cross- and further beseeched the Father to forgive them. It was necessary to keep the conduit of God’s mercy open to them. And that is finally what God’s forgiveness, and ours, is for. It’s purpose is to open the way of salvation and restoration until the doors of justice close upon us… and we stand in final judgment. There is where our sense of justice will finally be satisfied. We are to wait, along with God, for that day. Now is the day of salvation. That is why we are called upon to wait for God’s vengeance and vindication, and not take matters into our own hands. Forgiveness of others directs us along a different pathway than desires of retribution. It in no way releases anyone from giving account for their deeds.

This forgiveness is difficult enough without adding the impossible demand of forgetting. Like Justin points out, we may forget small trespasses, but not the big damaging ones. Pain is embedded in the memory… it teaches us important lessons. And with people we must, unfortunately, learn lessons which of those are safe and which dangerous to us and others. Forgiving doesn’t mean trusting. It means letting them go from the just retribution that the Law allows: the eye for an eye.

We tell them,”I don’t want your eye for mine… your child for mine… your home for mine… I want to see you change and be a decent and kind person. I want to see you contribute to the welfare of others instead of your destructive selfishness”. And we should desire that from ourselves as well.

We can’t do that without the expensive business of forgiveness. Even of those who are unrepentant. And I say that full well knowing that I must pay and keep paying, at times, for things I did not deserve to be handed the bill for…yet…

God is faithful to see and to act justly in all occasions.