Forgive and Forget
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b).
“With my burden I begin: Lord remove this load of sin…” The words of the old hymn are a good starting point for any thoughts about forgiveness.
The Bible often pictures guilt as a heavy load, a burden, that weighs the soul down. To receive forgiveness is to have the burden lifted.
Sin is often depicted as the incurring of a debt. We owe God obedience. He demands perfection. Sin is a failure to pay our Creator what we owe him. To forgive is to wipe that debt away.
It doesn’t take much calculating to realize that we owe God a lot. We begin by remembering that we owe him thanks and praise for all the wonderful things he has given us in life. Failure to do that surely is a mark against us.
Yet, such a failure doesn’t compare to the times we have become insubordinate, disobeyed orders, and took our stand with the Enemy. These are crimes. They bring big penalties. They have eternal consequences. There is no way we can pay them off.
So, we must be relieved, and astounded, to hear that all of this is wiped away. The weight is lifted off our shoulders. We are declared debt-free by the court of heaven.
If it were not the holy God himself speaking, we might be tempted to think it was a false rumor. But, since he has said it, we better believe it.
But, what if he changes his mind? What if he sees us sinning again, and even again? Will he take back his forgiveness? Will he re-file the charges against us? Will he drag us back into court to face our sin?
Humans might do that. We might forgive someone for what they did against us, but we never really do forget about it. If it happens again, we remember their past offence and conclude that forgiveness for the old one should be withdrawn. They have shown they did not deserve to have it.
That’s what worries us! We realize that we do not deserve to have forgiveness from God. Every additional sin we commit only testifies to that truth. How can we be certain that his decree of forgiveness still stands, both in heaven as on earth?
The verse of that old hymn continues with the words, “Let your blood for sinners spilt, Set my conscience free from guilt” (Hymn 409:3).
How much more certain can it be? The Judge, himself, says, “I will remember their sins no more!”
Of course! It has to be! The sin, the guilt, the burden, is gone. There is nothing left to remember.
The blood of the Son of God has washed it all away.
Lord of All, sometimes we worry that you will go back on your promise that our sin will not be held against us. Our guilty consciences sometimes accuse us with the memories of what we have done wrong. The weight of that guilt can weigh us down, and take away the joy of living. We thank you for making the truth ring in our ears: you have forgiven our wickedness. You have forgotten our sins. The holy blood of Jesus has wiped our slate clean. Thanks be to you forever for this!
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military