Will you forgive and forget? Can you?
"So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me." Philemon 1:17,18 NIV
In 1997, sixteen months after the Columbine High School massacre, a 14-year-old boy, named Michael, opened fire on a group of students gathered for prayer at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. In just seconds, 3 students died and 5 others were wounded. The shooter was not involved in drugs, crime, or a cult. In fact, he was a good student who seldom got into trouble.
One outcome of this tragedy shocked many people. The students willingly forgave their assailant. Placards appeared at the high school saying, “We Forgive You, Mike.” Michael’s sister, Kelly, was embraced by her peers. She was asked to sing in a choir at the slain girls’ funeral. At the town’s annual Christmas parade, a moment of silent prayer was offered on behalf of Michael and his family. One young girl summed up how the whole community responded, “I can hate Michael and bear the scars of what he did for the rest of my life. But I choose to forgive him and get beyond it.”
Suppose you are the injured party. What are you to do? Perhaps you may have to go to court because of legal questions. Beyond that, what should you do? How should you personally regard the injury?
Philemon was a wealthy Christian slave owner who had been robbed. Onesimus was a runaway slave who had stolen. Paul was the messenger of salvation to the slave when he ended up in Rome. Onesimus’ life was transformed by Jesus Christ to the point that he willingly returned to his master. Paul wrote a letter requesting Philemon to treat him as a believer, not a slave. He should be welcomed back the way Paul would be. In other words, Paul was asking Philemon to forgive and forget what Onesimus had done.
When God forgives and forgets, He does it freely, fully, finally, and forever. If Paul had given further explanation about his request, he probably would have detailed how Jesus Christ forgave sinners and forgot the sin, never again remembering their past. The Bible says: “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he [God] removed our transgressions from us.” [Psalm 103:12]; “Once again and you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” [Micah 7:19 NLT] Paul wrote to the Romans saying, “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” [Romans 3:24 NLT]
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE THE INJURED PARTY? Ask Jesus Christ to help you to forgive. When you forgive, you choose to give someone who has injured you a new beginning. Just like Jesus does. When you forgive, you choose to live without carrying hate, anger, hurt, or resentment. “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven: for everyone has a need to be forgiven.” [Pastor George Herbert 1593-1633]
Ask Jesus Christ to help you to forget. When you forget, you choose to love by turning the other cheek. When you forget, you choose to give a person a second chance. Forgetting does not mean erasing an experience from your memory. However, it does mean you choose to not intentionally focus on the injury. Your desire is not to nurse or rehearse it. It is unhealthy to bring it back to memory. Instead, you intentionally lay it to rest. You choose to put it out of your mind when it is recalled.
Follow in the footsteps of the people from Paducah, Kentucky. Choose to forgive and get beyond it. You really can do it with God’s help.
SOMETHING TO DO
Are you carrying any grudges or resentment? Is there any physical, mental, or emotional injury you have received which needs to be forgiven? Ask Jesus Christ to help you. Then ask another believer to pray for you. Perhaps you may even seek out a Christian counselor to speak with.
SOUL TIME PRAYER
Lord Jesus Christ, how I need you to help me to forgive and forget. Fill my heart, mind, and emotions with your divine, forgiving love. I choose today not to resent, be angry, or hate. Today, Lord Jesus, I choose You to empower me with forgiveness and forgetfulness. AMEN!