A couple weeks ago, Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, misquoted the Bible. Badly.
He was summarizing part of an address Obama gave where he said, “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.” A few hours later, a reporter asked Carney during a press conference, “Isn’t it a bit much to bring God into the jobs debate?” Carney responded: “I believe that the phrase from the Bible is, ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves.’”
Except the Bible doesn't say that. Anywhere. Of course someone was quick to bring that up, and the Obama camp looked...um...not smart.
Our culture has somehow maintained a collection of sayings that sound Biblical, but aren't actually in the Bible. They are repeated over and over, as if from the mouth of God, and are nothing more than idioms.
One that particularly bothers me is the directive to "Forgive and forget." Gosh, it kills me to hear people stumbling over this order that seems holy, and yet is mercilessly difficult. If you've ever listened to a radio program where people phone in for advice, you'll hear the burden people put upon themselves to forgive the heinous sins of others and then expect the memories to simply vanish from their minds, as if that is proof of true forgiveness.
Well, as far as I know, God is the only one who can choose to forget sin (Isaiah 43:25). And He does not require the same of us. True forgiveness is always in spite of the fact that we remember. In the circumstances that really matter, how could we not?
Some of us have endured some horrible things. I don't need to go into specifics. You know what I'm talking about. Really broken people are in our worlds, and sometimes were or are in our homes. I'm sure among the women reading this post, every sort of abuse and violation can be represented by our experiences. Some of the worst moments of our lives have been lived in the shadow of another's sin. Plain and simple.
And those moments mattered.
They are not going to easily erase like chalk on a blackboard. The wrongs committed against us were just that. Wrong. And God grieved with us the entire time. That's the truth.
Yet, we are called, as followers of Jesus, to forgiveness. Not based on the merit of another, by any means. Not because the other person feels remorse. Not because someone is even cognizant of his or her own guilt. Our burden to forgive is only because we too were forgiven by God Himself when we asked Jesus to be in charge of our lives. He paid the debt we couldn't pay, and then asks us in turn to clear the debts of others. To say to the ones who have damaged us: "You don't owe me anything."
Wow, isn't that a high calling? Almost unbelievable that God would ask that of us? I know that even in the small things, the day-to-day emotional injuries that happen, for instance, in marriage, I really want an apology. (How much more do we feel this in the bigger hurts!) I tell myself that I need an apology before I can function lovingly again. However, I've learned that is a lie intended to hold me back and keep me in bondage to my hurt. Focused on myself, dwelling on my rights, and completely forgetting whose I am.
True forgiveness must be a supernatural transaction. I cannot expect my own hurting soul to muster up that kind of grace. No way. Only the power and blood of Jesus can heal us enough to get us to that place. And these things take time. God is not in a rush for us to get there. But He does call us to obey:
"As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive"
Forgiveness is also not a one-time deal. Because there's the remembering. God has created our brains to more deeply etch the things that move us most. The good and the bad. So naturally, the very bad hurts leave lasting scars in our memories. That is why the "Forgive and forget" mantra really messes us up. It's plain impossible. And anything but Biblical.
During some seasons, I've had to choose forgiveness daily. Sometimes several times a day, as the remembering continued. It is a choice of the will, and it is the fruit of healing, laying down my struggle before the Lord, and asking Him for grace.
Really, the more we understand what grace has done for us, the more we are able to have grace for others. Unmerited favor is a great definition for grace: nothing earned, just granted, simply because it was first granted to us.
I'm pretty darn thankful that Jesus didn't wait for my apology before He died for me.