Saturday 11 March 2017

Forgive Forget Reconcile - NONSENSE

Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus said to the disciples, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven ..."

A more modern interpretation of the passage above is that we should forgive, forget, and reconcile with (love) our enemies.

Easier said than done.

God knows that, and He understands when, often, we cannot achieve this commandment to the letter.

Let us analyse it a little further.

Forgiveness is an act, a positive act, not a feeling. We cannot say I feel I have forgiven him, therefore I have. We must decide to forgive, whether or not the other person has sought forgiveness or even cares whether we have forgiven him or not. We decide, deep in our hearts, that we no longer bear any ill-will towards that person. No longer do we want revenge, punishment or retribution of any kind. We have totally forgiven them once and for all - and ... here is the difficult bit: WE CAN PROVE IT TO GOD SHOULD HE ASK US TO.

So ... we have dealt with the first bit of the equation. We have truly forgiven.

The second bit is forgetting. This is almost impossible. God created us with a memory and short of hypnotism or some accident or action that leads to loss of memory, we will remember.

The deeper the hurt done to us, the more we will remember. The slightest thing will trigger that memory. A song perhaps, a picture, visiting a place, something someone says ... and we will remember once again the hurt done to us. We may resent the hurt done to us. We may become bitter and perhaps angry. This is natural and we should not reproach ourselves about it. God knows about these feelings because He created us this way - with a memory that brings back to life the bad times in our lives.

Let us use these bad memories to forgive once again. Let them be a trigger to decide once more to forgive the one who hurt us. Let them be an opportunity to pray for that person and hand them over to God. To ask Him to take care of them and to get them to know Him better.

The final bit of the equation is to "love" or reconcile with our enemy. The one who hurt us.

As an ideal state, this is worth pursuing. But let us not fool ourselves. There are times when this is impossible, or indeed it is imperative that we do not reconcile with the one who has hurt us.

Let me explain.

As human beings one of our basic instincts is to protect ourselves, and our loved ones, from danger and from evil. Again ... God created us this way.

There are times when to reconcile with the one who hurt us puts us, or our loved ones, back into a situation of danger.

Let's look at an example scenario:

Imagine a case of divorce. Is it really possible that the couple reconcile again to the extent that they live together again as husband and wife as before ... as if nothing had happened? To live together without the slightest doubt, suspicion, fear or feelings that led to the divorce in the first place?

Let us raise the stakes a little.

What if the actions of one of the spouses had created havoc in their life as well as yours? What if that action repeated itself over and over again with not the slightest intent or effort to improve the situation. Is it still possible for you to reconcile totally knowing full well that the chances are there will be a repeat of that action, putting you and yours in danger? Would it be the prudent thing for you to do? To reconcile totally and keep your fingers crossed and hope against hope?

Let us raise the stakes some more.

What if the actions of your spouse had hurt badly someone you love? Your parents for instance, or your offspring? What if to reconcile and return back to your spouse would mean hurting these people once again; or indeed put them in some danger? Would you still reconcile totally?

I think I made my point.

To forgive that individual who hurt us is a decision that we can make; and we can forgive them again and again every time the memories come back to haunt us. God asks no more than that.

But to reconcile totally and go back to a situation as it was before is not always possible.

God does not ask for that. He does not ask us to put ourselves and others in danger for the sake of "loving our enemies".

We can easily love them from a distance. We love them in our hearts in as much as we pray for them and re-affirm again and again in our hearts that we have forgiven them.

Christ did say to His disciples that at times they should leave certain places and shake the dust from their sandals.

He did not say return there again and put yourself in danger of being attacked, arrested or killed.

When some of His followers could no longer accept His teachings when He said, "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him"; they got up and left Him. He did not call them back and attempt to explain. He just let them go. He forgave them and let them go.

That is what we are asked to do ... some times ... to those who have hurt us. To forgive them ... again and again ... and let them go.


  1. You've done a great job of exposing the impossibility of the 'forgive-and-forget' doctrine. From a philosophical perspective, a forgiven person must first REPENT, otherwise you're forgiving MALICE. The repentance must be HONEST. Reconciliation only operates through TRUST, which is not created through forgiveness alone, although it helps once MALICE has been repented of. Many good Catholics have trouble with forgiveness because HONESTY is not listed as a cardinal virtue, when it is absolutely vital to achieving a workable forgiveness. Neither are dishonesty and malice mentioned as cardinal sins, when in fact they are active in every human activity we'd call evil.

    1. Thank you Anonymous for your comments.

      Yes, ideally for forgiveness to happen one should also have repentance and honesty on the part of the one who has hurt us. But there are times when the one who hurt us does not seek forgiveness, nor cares for it. For our own peace of mind, we should find it within us to forgive them all the same.

      When Christ hung on the Cross, those who crucified Him did not seek or ask for forgiveness. Yet He forgave them. Let that be our example to forgive.

      As for the fate of those who have hurt us - it is in the hands of God.

      God bless you.

    2. Jesus forgiving his killers sets a powerful example which honest persons cannot ignore. Another example Jesus gave, is his not extending forgiveness to servants (slaves) who failed to please their master. Luke 12:47-48 shows Jesus recommending a flogging (stripes) for those who knowingly failed in their duty, and a lighter flogging for those who were failing but didn't know. 'God forgive them for they know not what they do' certainly didn't apply to any 'slow-learner' slaves according to Jesus. I quite agree the fate of malicious persons who couldn't care about hurting others is in the hands of God. Let God's justice begin.

    3. Thank you Anonymous. Forgiving His aggressors from the Cross is perhaps the greatest example we have of Christ forgiving people who had not repented, nor asked for forgiveness, nor cared for it. This would be very difficult for many of us to emulate. But it should not stop us from trying.

      God bless you.

    4. Jesus set the standard in forgiveness, no doubt needed. So why didn't he tell us that erring slaves also be forgiven?

    5. You have not answered my question sir. If we are to fully understand forgiveness, Jesus' lack of forgiveness for erring and innocent slaves needs to be considered honestly (2Tim 3:16). Notice also that Jesus claimed to 'set at liberty them that are bruised' (Luke 4:18). Obviously this claim is untrue, flogging slaves caused more bruising, not less, and nowhere does Jesus set slaves free. It seems to me that as well as setting the standard in forgiveness, Jesus also set the standard in non-forgiveness! Could you please read the above mentioned scriptures and show me where I'm wrong? This is important to all Christians. The United States fought the civil war to end slavery and millions died. Which side did Jesus support?

    6. Thank you Anonymous for your comments. I am sorry I do not have the answers to your questions.

      God bless you.

    7. I didn't think you would. There's no answer except the obvious one. We who would teach others must never forget that we will be held to a higher standard of accountability.

  2. Victor, I was raised in church by two very Godly parents, I have been following Jesus since I was 10 years old, sat through countless sermons, been around church people since I was born, and even had a Papaw who pastored our church for around 40 years, and I have never had anyone help me in the area of forgiveness as you have. The thing that resonates the most with me concerning this post is the fact that God does not expect us to go back into a damaging situation. I believe this also applies to those who despitefully use us over and over and over again and who we have poured ourselves into time after time only to receive abusive, vexing treatment in return. I don't believe the dear Lord expects us to go back into those situations after He has so graciously removed us from them, to be abused and vexed further, until it consumes us and affects every area of our lives. There is SO much I have learned from you and your posts on forgiveness...I can't thank you enough, my friend. ;)

    1. Thank you Cheryl for your kind words. I am so appreciative of your support.

      You are right. God does not want us to go back to a situation where we would be hurt again and again. Sometimes evil exists in some people. To go back and court and flirt with evil once again, after we have been hurt before, is very imprudent to say the least.

      What we must do is to forgive and walk away. Sometimes this is essential to protect our loved ones as well as ourselves.

      God bless you and yours.

  3. It is very hard. I was once mugged by three punks, and I was livid. It was years later before I could forgive them, and they didn't even hurt me. Because there were three of them, I never put up a fight, so they didn't need to physically accost me. If they had, I probably would still not forgive them. It is very hard.

    1. You're so right, Manny. It is hard, often, to forgive; but then we should try.

      God bless you, my friend.



God bless you.