Forgiveness, reconciliation, trust and what you choose to remember

Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. It is possible to say “I forgive you” but rebuilding broken trust is difficult, takes time and may not be possible.  This may leave us feeling hopeless, helpless and despairing.  What hope is there for the married couple where there has been a breakdown in the relationship, they’ve said sorry to each other, there is a level of reconciliation but they still can’t fully trust each other yet? What about the friends who have fallen out? What about division in the church? What about a family at war?[1]

Psalm 25:6-7 says:

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

I find these verses incredibly moving.  David, the Psalmist asks God to make an active e choice in what he remembers. He asks God to chose not to remember his sins. Instead he asks God to remember things about his own character, his mercy and steadfast love, or his compassion and faithfulness and to look at him in accordance with those characteristics. 

This is what forgiveness is all about for God, it is a choice to remember certain things and not remember other things.  Isaiah 43:25 says:

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake  and I will not remember your sins.

God chooses to remember our sin no more.  How is this possible? Is it simply about him forgetting it? The risk with forgetting something is tat the memory may be locked away somewhere in the recesses of the mind and come back to remembrance when we are least expecting. It   David asks God to “blot out” his iniquity in his confession about his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. This is the key for our understanding of God’s forgiveness. It is not simply that he forgets something. Rather the problem of sin has been dealt with at the Cross.

“as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.[2]

So coming back to our relationships with one another. At some point, we have to choose what to remember and what not to remember. So, on a purely human level, I can choose to remember all the bad things, all of your failings and the many ways you hurt me. I can choose to focus on a hurt and nurse it into a grievance until it has grown into bitterness with its tentacles spreading out into every part of my life.  Or, I can choose to actively remember the good things, they way that we have stood shoulder to shoulder, the times you have heled and encouraged me, the fact that God has blessed us with the gifts he has given you.

Going deeper, I can choose to remember first of all what God has done for me, that he has chosen not to remember my sin and chosen to remember compassion.  I can choose to remember that Christ died for you as well and has forgiven you.

Remembering then is about an active choice to behave to one another in a certain way on the basis of past truths.  On what basis will I choose to act towards you?  Forgiveness, reconciliation and rebuilt trust will require that active choice to act towards one another on the basis of the Cross and the Gospel.


[1] For clarity in the rest of the article, I am focusing here on situations where there has been genuine repentance. I am also specifically not dealing with cases of abuse as that requires separate treatment.

[2] Psalm 103:12

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