Forgive and…Forget?

Ben Schoettel   -  


Have you heard the phrase “forgive and forget” before? I certainly have. When your younger sibling steals a toy from you, it’s probably a helpful tool (they say sorry; you move on and grab a new toy!). In more serious situations, though, the phrase is insufficient and does not honor the process in which Jesus invites us to forgive. In a way, I think that phrase serves as a copout. It pulls us away from the hard – yet necessary – work of forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation to God and to one another.

In Zach’s sermon, we reflected on Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  This is a lofty command to followers of Jesus, but an imperative one. Forgiveness is not the simple road; it is the narrow road, but it is a step of obedience to the Lord that brings us into greater freedom.

The content of this verse draws me back to a story from John 8. Here’s a brief retelling… a woman was caught in adultery, and the religious leaders of the day brought her before Jesus. According to the law of Moses, this woman was to be stoned to death as payment for her sin. The leaders pushed Jesus, demanding an answer that would satisfy their desires. Instead, Jesus said to them: “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” At this, they backed away, leaving Jesus and the woman together for an intimate, holy moment. Jesus asked where her accusers were, and whether one of them had condemned her (love Jesus’ approach here… he already knew the answer but engaged HER with a question ). Upon saying no – and this is THE moment – Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

This is Colossians 3:13 embodied. Jesus bears her burdens with her, in relationship. He forgives her freely and without restraint. That’s not the end, though. He invites her to continue to walk the road of forgiveness – leaving her life of sin and working towards holistic restoration. Jesus doesn’t “forgive and forget” the reality of her life. Instead, he invites her into healing, wholeness, and freedom through the hard work of picking up the pieces afterwards.

There are many… many times I’ve been in the position of the woman caught in adultery. I’ve needed the forgiveness and grace of another. The script can be flipped, though, as we consider ourselves as the ones who need to forgive someone who has wronged us. This is where the rubber meets the road. Again, the call from Jesus is not to “forgive and forget.” The call is to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander… instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”

The following liturgy/prayer was read in the service on Sunday, and I invite you to re-read it and pray it over your own life and situations of grief and hurt.

“Give me grace to quickly forgive, even as you, in your mercy, have already forgiven me, that the enemy of my soul would find no foothold in this pain. Let me not nurse this hurt, O God, but move my heart instead, that I might bless those who have added to my burden. Let me see how they, like me, are stumbling through this sudden rift in life without a script, and how each of us will have missteps alone the way as we are slowly learning how to hold this holy ache.

So seal even this small breach lest it widen to divide me from another. Calm my troubled heart. Let me not lash out in anger, or – if anger is warranted – let me still be quick to reconcile, and let me leave room always for your redemption, even in my grief, O God.

Here is my momentary hurt. I offer it to you. Take it; heal it, and turn it to eternal good. Amen.”

Next week, we will reflect more on the process of restoration: what comes after the act of forgiveness. My challenge to you… ask God who you may need to forgive this week, OR, who do you need to ask for forgiveness? Jesus, our holy and compassionate Savior, does not condemn you. Instead, He invites you to go and sin no more.

(This week’s devotional was written by RLCC’s Worship Director Hannah Ahrens.)