I had some interesting conversations today after the message on Forgiveness. They were very good, but I want to clarify something here. One of the things we talked about was the fact that when you forgive someone it doesn’t mean you always forget. However, if the forgiveness is real; you don’t dwell on it — you don’t allow the past wrong/hurt/etc to control you. As long as you are holding onto it – it’s got a grip on you and that’s not God’s desire. Jesus says to forgive them – to let it go – because that’s what He’s done for you and me. In Phil. 3 when Paul talked about “forgetting the past” he didn’t mean he totally forgot everything that had happened to him; rather, he just didn’t allow it to control him. There were many times in the NT where Paul talked about his past, but he didn’t dwell on it or focus on the past. His focus was on Jesus and the race that Christ had for him to run.
Here’s an illustration that may help. When I was in college, a friend of mine betrayed me in my relationship with Janet. I was not a happy camper and went to see my BSU Director about it. In the middle of a great conversation, my BSU Director handed me a book. He told me to imagine that book contained all the wrongs this person had done against me. Then he told me to open my hand and release the book – allowing it to drop to the floor. I DID. Then he asked me a very important question; he asked me if I could walk out of his office and never pick the book up again. I thought about it and said – sure because I had the power to leave that book there and never pick it up again. He then explained that’s what it means to forgive. To release the hurt and never pick it up again. It made so much sense to me and I’ve applied it ever since. Now – here’s the catch; if I had walked back into his office over the next few weeks and that book was still on the floor it would have reminded me of the event where I was hurt, but I still didn’t have to pick the book up and didn’t have to dwell on it.
When you’ve been offended or wronged and you forgive someone, you won’t always forget the event – but you don’t have to let it control you. Today, as I shared some of my past hurts – they weren’t things I dwell on or actually ever think about unless I’m preparing a message like the one today and God brings them to mind as an illustration. In other words, they are still a part of my memory, but I don’t access that memory ever in a negative way. Those memories may always be there, but the events no longer have any power over me because I’ve released them and forgiven those involved. As we learned today: I FORGIVE TO LIVE !