When God forgives our sins, does he really forget what we have done? Or, as some translations indicate, is it probably more accurate to say that, when he forgives us, he does not remember those sins against us (Psalm 79:8)? I’m raising the question because I ended an earlier post saying that forgiveness, as described in the Bible, does not require a return to business as usual. Before I add a few more thoughts to the problem of forgiving ourselves, I’d like to try to answer a question we often ask about the relationship between forgiveness and consequences.
If we really forgive one another, does that mean we will act as if nothing ever came between us? You’ve probably noticed, as I have, that those who have confessed their wrongs sometimes ask something like, “Now that I’ve admitted my wrong, now that God has forgiven me, and now that the Bible requires you to forgive me, can we act like this never happened?”
According to the Bible, forgiveness allows for appropriate consequences. From all indications, God forgave Adam and Eve, and then removed them from the Garden. God seems to have forgiven the anger of Moses, but wouldn’t let him into the Promised Land. For sure we know that God forgave David for adultery and murder, but would not let David have the child born of his adultery.
The love that motivates true forgiveness allows for and often calls for consequences. A forgiver may still wisely and lovingly ask for reasonable restitution, legal due process, a plan to avoid recurrences, and time to heal. Wise follow-through is often necessary if we are going to forgive and love well.