“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
It’s the holiday season! Of course, all the holiday news articles and quips are out in full force. The other day I saw one that was about what brought people the most anxiety over the holidays. The answer was surprising and a bit sad to me: the thing that brings the most people anxiety this time of the year is having to spend time with family. Since I moved around a lot growing up, I spent most of my holidays with just my immediate family. No big family gatherings, no going home to see my grandparents. I was always kind-of jealous of people that could do such things with large families.
It made me wonder why family might be the top answer in the survey. I realized that in my own life, one of the reasons to avoid family or someone in general is the act of forgiving—or rather, the lack of “forgive and forget.” So, I looked at my Bible and concordances and the internet, and found something interesting. I’d just always assumed that the phrase “forgive and forget” came from somewhere in the Bible. Nope.
There are plenty of verses relating to forgiveness, some more quoted than others: Matthew 6:14, Matthew 18:21-22, Ephesians 4:32 to name a few. We know that Jesus calls us to forgiveness. As God has forgiven us, so must we forgive others—a ton. One of my favorite verses is Micah 7:18: “Where is a God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love” (NLT). Un-forgiveness hinders us and lessens the quality of our relationship with the one who has forgiven us (Matthew 6:15).
But nowhere did I see that we should necessarily forget all the offenses and trespasses of people against us. It’s implied by the fact that God seems to “forget” our past wrongdoings because He just has that much grace and love for us. I honestly don’t always possess grace, and certainly not that much. Some offenses are probably so slight that it’s more exhausting to hold it against the offender. I should probably let those things go. Forgetting in those cases is choosing not to hold a grudge.
But other times, while you can forgive an action, a break in trust in that relationship should not necessarily be forgotten. I might have forgiven that person, but have they changed? Are they repentant? Can I trust them again? This forgetting part then becomes God’s territory. You can’t change a person; only He can. At this point, I don’t really know whether we should always forget.
The ideal, however, seems to be to “forgive and forget.” For those of us who have chosen Christ, we’ve been called to a higher standard. Jesus so readily challenges us with His example. Out of all the forgiveness verses, I chose to highlight the one from Ephesians because it calls us to have an attitude of kindness and compassion whilst being forgiving. You might have been the one slighted, but we are called to be kind. We are called to be compassionate. I don’t know everyone’s family dynamics, or just how badly family has hurt them. And this is as much a reminder to myself as it is to you, that we are first called to forgive. Then, we must trust that God will somehow take care of the rest.
Miel can be reached by email here.