“Forgive, but don’t forget.” — Unknown
There is a certain earthly logic in being willing to extend forgiveness but not forgetfulness for significant wrongs and wounds we’ve suffered. Much of our international politics in the twenty-first century is predicated on this kind of thinking. Heads of state put aside differences and extend either explicit or implicit forgiveness to their global allies, enemies, and neighbors. Yet, they don’t completely forget their ideological differences and past conflicts.
On an interpersonal level, wrongs and wounds are also complicated to resolve. All of us have been in situations, probably even this week, where we’ve been hurt by others or we’ve hurt others. While these times are not representative of us at our best, they are regular occurrences in our post-Genesis 3 world and impact how we relate to one another.
The writer of Hebrews continues to explain how Jesus is our Great High Priest, far exceeding all who came before Him. He is a better mediator of a superior covenant between God and humanity. In stark contrast to the uneasy covenants, shaky treaties, and tentative agreements that govern our world and relationships, the covenant God establishes with us through Jesus is solely dependent upon the power and goodness of one party, and that party is not us but God. Though we frequently, consistently, and brazenly sin against God, He frequently, consistently, and tenderly forgives us on account of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins.
God also “forgets” our sins in the sense of choosing not to remember them. There’s no lingering grudge, ongoing distrust, or probationary period with God. He does not drag up the past. The slate has been wiped clean—completely clean. David captured this amazing reality in vivid, memorable language in Psalm 103: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (v.12). Our sins have been removed an infinite distance from us so that God could move intimately close to us.
We tend to have short memories when it comes to remembering God’s mercy and forgiveness. But if we’ve come to know God through Jesus, then God is actually the one with the short memory. For He promises, “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). He chooses not to look at us and see our sin. Thanks be to God for His unending mercy and grace.
Written by Andrew Stoddard