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1.11.2005    |    Forgive and forget?
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Thus speaks the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah. This was the starting point of this past Sunday's sermon. The message was that if we have not forgotten sins against us, we have not truly forgiven them.

The full context is Jeremiah 31:31-34:
31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD', because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
This is strange, at least on its surface. How could God not "remember" something? Clearly what is meant is that God chooses to not dwell on the sins He has forgiven. And God is our measure in how we are to act towards those who sin against us.

What is also apparent is that God's "forgetting" past sins is conditioned on renewal of His covenant, and this time, having the people not stray from it. In a word: repentance, which is implied by "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts." The renewed covenant, if written on the hearts of the people, will be honored. They will sin no more in this regard.

Well, we know God has infinite capacity for forgiveness. Good thing, too, as His people Israel, now including Christians, continue to sin. As for how this works in the here and now, our pastor advises that we literally forget the sins against us, and forgive the sinner. To get the sins out of our minds; to neither think nor dwell on them. Now what's missing is the answer to the question: How do we stop the same sin from happening again and again?

The answer must be, "we can not." There are no guarantees. Sin is all around us; we are immersed in it as a natural part of our fallen world. We take our chances in the world.

What about, for want of a better term, global or national sins? Here's where it gets a little complex. We must, as Christians, forgive individuals who sin against us. What about large groups, such as nation-states who sin? Well, sins are committed not by groups, but by individuals. We should forgive all individuals as individuals, and forget their individual guilt -- if they repent. If they keep on sinning, it becomes impossible to forget -- although not to forgive, as many times as is takes. From Matthew 18:
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventyseven times".
By which He meant, of course, a really, really large number of times. None of this means that we don't stop sinners from hurting us, or others. Jesus is forgiving, with infinite mercy -- yet he also hates sin. It's a trait He got from His Dad. It's something we who are pale images of Him must also attempt -- forgive as many times as it takes, while hating sin, and doing our level best to stop it from hurting our flock.


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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.