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Forgive and Forget - Not!
by J. Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor
27 May 2003

Just forgive and forget. It’s what Jesus would do.  Oh really. I don’t think so.

Just forgive and forget. It’s what Jesus would do.

Oh really. I don’t think so.

Let’s start with forget. You can’t forget it just like a flip of the finger. Go figure. You have a brain. It works, supposedly, hopefully. Then as your cranium continues to log in existence’s experiences, it does not just delete them at the drop of a "forget that."

You can remember because that’s the way the human mind does it. It remembers. God is the only One who can forget at the drop of a repentant heart. He has promised in His divine mercy to do that. That’s part of salvation. It is as if our sins never occurred when the gracious divine forgets them. Miracle! That’s right. And you, the human, cannot reproduce that miracle for you are not divine but mortal.

So you will remember the madness put upon you, the meanness leveled against you, the political antics stabbed into your pastor’s heart. You will. You will. You will and you will weep and moan and groan. And so will your family.

Now with the gift of time, that remembering will temper itself. It really will. But only the gift of time provided by divine grace will see that therapy through. It does take place, if you live long enough after the atrocity. If does take place. I have experienced the healing of time passing and so have scores of others. Thank God for time passing, believe me.

Now to that forgive business. Jesus told those about Him to repent in order to find divine forgiveness. They had to show up first at the mourner’s bench in order to come into mercy and grace. If they refused, then they carried their guilt and He did not forgive them of their sins.

Same with you. You do not go around to your enemies with the flask of forgiving water, sprinkling it over them all. "I forgive. I forgive. I forgive." Not. You don’t have the right to do that. Nor do you have the sanity to do that. If you do that and you think you have the sanity to pull it off, you are merely adding to the scar tissue in your innards and time will prove that to be a false move.

When you say, "Oh I forgive them for stabbing me in the back, for massacring my family, for spreading lies about me and putting me out of my pastorate and taking away my salary and putting me into a waiter’s job at the local ice cream shop" then you are a fool or you are just simply — charitably speaking — unreal as a turnip.

You may appear pious and angel-like when you give forth with your ability to forgive all the Hitlers who have murdered you off; but it doesn’t cut it with the Bible. And this is the reason why: God awaits those mad and mean souls to repent of their sins against His truth and against you, the carrier of truth. He expects and demands that. Otherwise, those Pharisees go to hell along with all those who have preceded them.

So you are to hold back on your phony forgiveness and let God do His work. Let God do His work of conviction. If you run ahead of that, you are screwing up the divine pattern here. Don’t.

When the foes repent to God and you, then you are to forgive. And I am sure you will when they sincerely repent to God and you. Then, and only then, God bless you for it.

Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., is the Pastor of New Hope Church in Windham, ME.  He is a a graduate of an accredited college (BA) and seminary (M Div) with graduate work at Harvard Divinity School.  Pastor Swank has been married for 41 years and he has 3 adult children.  He is the author of 5 books and over 2000 articles in various Protestant and Catholic magazines, journals and newspapers. He writes a weekly religion column for PORTLAND PRESS HERALD newspaper, Portland ME.  His columns have appeared on,,,,,,,,, among others.

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