I’ll forgive . . . but I’ll never forget. We say and hear that so much that it’s easy to shrug it off as “only natural.” That’s the problem! It is the most natural response we can expect. Not supernatural. It also can result in tragic consequences.
In his book Great Church Fights, Leslie B. Flynn tells of two unmarried sisters who lived together, but because of an unresolved disagreement over an insignificant issue, they stopped speaking to each other. They continued to use the same rooms, eat at the same table, use the same appliances, and sleep in the same room . . . all separately . . . without one word. A chalk line divided the sleeping area into two halves, separating doorways as well as the fireplace. Each would come and go, cook and eat, sew and read without ever stepping over into her sister’s territory. Because both were unwilling to take the first step toward forgiving and forgetting the silly offense, they coexisted for years in grinding silence.
After I spoke at a summer Bible conference meeting one evening, a woman told me she and her family had been camping across America. In their travels they drove through a town and passed a church with a name she said she would never forget—THE ORIGINAL CHURCH OF GOD, NUMBER TWO.
Whether it is a personal or a public matter, we quickly reveal whether we possess a servant’s heart in how we respond to those who have offended us. And it isn’t enough simply to say, “Well, okay—you’re forgiven, but don’t expect me to forget it!” That means we have erected a monument of spite in our mind, and that isn’t really forgiveness at all.
Servants must be big people. Big enough to go on, remembering the right and forgetting the wrong.
Perhaps Amy Carmichael put it best when she wrote in her book If: “If I say, ‘Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,’ as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
Forgetting an offense means being, in the true and noble sense of the term, self-forgetful.