“Just forgive and forget” were the last words they heard as the others walked from the room. “But where does that leave me?” they responded to no one in particular as they sat back in their chair, wounded and left with no hope of justice. The abused, discredited, manipulated, falsely condemned, and betrayed don’t forget; the pain penetrates every thought, and the wounds remain tender and easily opened at the slightest pressure. Each memory of the harmful act sits just under the surface, ready to rob them of the joy they once knew. Being told ‘to forget’ trivializes what they are struggling with and reveals the lack of concern they desire. It’s like being ostracized to the island of misfit toys where no one wants to deal with the cause. There, we are left only with the question, “Is there still hope?”
Just as the toys were redeemed in the old Christmas special, so are we. It’s not by any program or charm this world can offer, but we are made whole again by the promises of God fulfilled in the salvation work of His only begotten Son. Jesus said to His disciples, who were struggling with God’s redemptive plan, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot supply. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
The peace Jesus provides is the ‘Peace of GOD.’ It’s that hope we receive when “we lean not on our own understanding and trust the Lord with all our hearts.” This is not always easy when you’re struggling with some form of abuse and can’t see past the wound’s pain. This strife is made worse by careless words… how vital to the ‘misfit’ are Jesus’ actions that reinforce His promises. He went on and instructed His disciples to, “Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I will go to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when I am crucified and resurrected, you will believe.” Jesus was about to do the unthinkable; give His life as a sacrifice, taking the place of the sinners who are guilty in God’s economy… even the misfits. Satan, the ruler of this world, was coming for Him. The Deceiver had no power over Him, but Jesus was willing to do what the Father required of Him, even to willingly die in our place so that the world will know that He loved the Father. (John 14:27-31 NLT)
Because we are human beings made of flesh and blood, God sent Jesus, His Son, to also became flesh and blood; for only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the devil’s leverage over us, for he had the power of death. This is God’s redemption plan, for only in this way could Jesus set us free from sin and death’s control. It is so cool how Jesus freely did what was necessary for Him to be made like us in every respect; He did this so He could not just ransom us from the darkness of Satan’s lies but be our merciful and faithful High Priest who stands before our Heavenly Father. Wow! That’s awesome! We are never left to fight on our own! His sacrifice takes away our sin and makes us forgiven! What a precious gift of hope! And since Jesus has gone through suffering and testing, much more significant than we will ever know, He can empathize with us and help when we are being tested, tried, and challenged in every way. (Hebrews 2:14-18 NLT)
Yes, we are to forgive, even the most abusive acts, but forgetting is not humanly possible. What we can do is look to Jesus and remember what He said and did. God’s word tells us, “for while we were yet sinners, that is people who hated Him and rejected His righteousness, Jesus died for us” (Romans 5:8). Furthermore, Jesus chose my needs over His own welfare and “gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. And when He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT). Jesus laid down His life for us who He called friends (John 15:13) and paid our debt owed to God for our guilt, ‘for the wage of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23), so we can be declared justified and forgiven before God… now that is hope and justice!
I know forgiveness is not an easy task on our part; most of us would rather the person who hurt us just be forgotten. But God has not left us to forgive on our own; in fact, forgiveness is His to bestow; and when we participate in His life of mercy provided through salvation, we find power and justice as well. Along with the peace of God, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit. He is our Advocate and representative, who will teach us everything and will remind us of all Jesus said and did. (John 14:26 NLT) This is not some person who comes and goes either; those who believe and wear the righteousness of Christ are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). He is here to stay, and He brings some unique attributes for us to enjoy and participate in. When we humbly make room for the Spirit to work, He produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And when those who belong to Christ Jesus trust the Spirit’s work, we can nail the passions and desires of our sinful nature to Jesus’ cross and crucify them there… including the desire for those who abuse us to be gone. Now, as we live by the Spirit, we can follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. This is especially important when it comes to forgiveness… so we won’t become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another, and able to forgive as God forgives us. (Galatians 5:22-26 NLT)
So, for us misfits, we should say, ‘Forgive, and DON’T forget.’ And in not forgetting, we allow the tender wounds and terrible memories to be reminders of the horrible death Jesus died in our place. We should be reminded often that He did this so we could be forgiven by God, entirely and forever, making it possible for us to forgive just like Him.
I pray our lives honor You, Father, and we abide in Your faithfulness today.
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, grandfather, Pastor with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is the Associate Pastor of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church.
Think About This: “It’s a grace to regret. Grace allows you to face your sin, to own it and not shift the blame. But it is also grace that forgives what has been exposed. Grace forces you to feel the pain of your regrets, but never asks you to pay for them, because the price has already been paid by Jesus.”―