Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting is a passive process in which a matter fades from memory merely with the passing of time. Forgiving is an active process; it involves a conscious choice and a deliberate course of action. To put it another way, when God says that he “remembers your sins no more” (Isa. 43:25), he is not saying that he cannot remember our sins. Rather, he is promising that he will not remember them. When he forgives us, he chooses not to mention, recount, or think about our sins ever again. Similarly, when we forgive, we must draw on God’s grace and consciously decide not to think or talk about what others have done to hurt us. This may require a lot of effort, especially when an offense is still fresh in mind. Fortunately, when we decide to forgive someone and stop dwelling on an offense, painful memories usually begin to fade.Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 206.
Food for Thought
“Revenge,” says the famous Sicilian proverb, “is a dish best served cold.” In other words, “effective” revenge requires careful planning as well as emotional distance from the experience that prompted the desire for revenge in the first place.
Interestingly, there’s also a sense in which biblical forgiveness is best as a “chilled dish.” It shouldn’t be emotionally chilled, of course, but it should be carefully planned and originate in a place deeper than our emotions. As Christians, we don’t wait to forgive so that we can let the memory of the offense fade or so the other person will suffer. Instead, we forgive deliberately. We carefully plan for the restoration of the relationship that has been wronged, and we submit our emotional hurt to Christ, who compels us to forgive as he has forgiven us.
As you “plot” your own forgiveness of others, remember that God’s plan for forgiveness was a profoundly deliberate effort that impacted literally every generation over literally centuries of time. If “cold revenge” is deeply satisfying, how infinitely much more so is deliberate, planned biblical forgiveness.