“Forgive and forget” is a popular saying and while forgiveness is definitely a Biblical value, is that statement truly Biblical?
“‘Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.’” Deuteronomy 25:17-19
Unfortunately, what many believers promote in the name of “love”, “godliness”, and “true forgiveness” is nothing short of dysfunctional behavior. If you were wronged God does not recommend acting as if nothing has happened and continuing to place yourself in the same dysfunctional situation over and over again. God wants us to remember what was done and live in light of reality, not delusions of someone’s behavior by sugar coating, and excusing someone’s bad behavior. Not only did God tell Israel to remember how abusive this person was, God commanded that when they were able to blot Amalek’s remembrance from the earth. Contrary to the popular saying “forgive and forget,” God clearly said not to forget what happened and to blot the evil person’s remembrance out - which one could argue is forgetting in a way but not in the sense many people seem to promote.
We need to blot out the evil, not the lesson. We cannot blot out or end an evil legacy by turning a blind eye to the situation and living like nothing is wrong; by not ensuring appropriate consequences are enforced, people never learn their behavior is unacceptable and stop. Acting as if nothing has been done wrong is not what God has asked us to do or promotes as a sign of true forgiveness. Forgiveness actually acknowledges something was or is wrong that needs to be dealt with. Forgiveness doesn’t turn wrongs into right and remove consequences. Forgiveness doesn’t make the untrustworthy trustworthy. Forgiveness doesn’t mean placing the person that committed a wrong against you in the exact same role they had before they committed the wrong. Forgiveness refuses to carry bitterness but it does not abandon common sense or condone folly by making the same mistakes over and over again.
Even when the wrong doer is repentant and reconciliation is possible true forgiveness does not demand that everything in the relationship has to be exactly the same as before things went wrong. God forgave Moses for hitting the rock instead of speaking to it, but God still didn’t restore Moses to his original role and allow him to lead Israel into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:7-13). The Torah makes it very clear that true forgiveness is not found in acting like nothing happened. You can live in reference to reality without holding a grudge. You can forgive and maintain healthy boundaries with people by taking the situation into account. “‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.’” Leviticus 19:17
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