A few weeks back a friend asked me about Christian forgiveness. How can we as Christians forgive when much of what we see around us is, lets be honest, downright evil? And we often find ourselves struggling with the whole concept of exactly how we are to forgive in the first place.
I think the confusion comes with our not differentiating between “forgiveness” and “forgetting”.
I believe Christian forgiveness is different to forgetting. We may forgive someone but that doesn’t necessarily mean we forget a betrayal of trust, etc. For instance, while someone may be forgiven for interfering with a child sexually, they are hardly likely to ever again be good candidates for babysitting. There are always consequences for our actions.
In a scriptural sense even God follows the same basic premise. When King David sinned with Bathsheba and subsequently arranged to have her husband, Uriah, sent to the front line, God still exacted a punishment on David’s house. Even after David repented and was forgiven for his sins of fornication and murder.
The following was God’s response through Nathan the prophet:
2Sa 12:9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
2Sa 12:10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
2Sa 12:11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.
2Sa 12:12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
2Sa 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
2Sa 12:14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
So, yes, God forgave David his sins, but He still exacted a hefty penalty on David and his house as a consequence for David’s original actions.
We may likewise forgive, but that doesn’t mean there are no downstream consequences for the one forgiven.
To forgive is divine, but to forget … well, that’s a little harder – and neither should we IMHO.