If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake.2 Corinthians 2:10
Paul expresses no hard feelings or recriminations nor exhibits an
I-can-forgive, but-I-can't-forget attitude. We often hear people speak about forgiveness in this way, and this attitude reveals a lack of understanding of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness, basically, is a promise that you make to three different individuals. This is true always, in every case of forgiveness.
First, it is a promise that you make to the individual who has offended you and now has repented, in which you are saying to him or her,
I will not let my attitude toward you be governed any longer by this offense. It has been put aside. My treatment of you from here on will be as though this has never happened. It is a promise you make never to bring it up again. In marriage many problems go on for years because couples tend to go back and dig up the past, which is an indication that it has never been forgiven. Some mates don't get hysterical; they get historical! That is the problem, and that creates a problem.
Second, it is a promise not to pass it on to anybody else. When a matter is forgiven, it is to be forgotten. Now it may be that everyone knows about the matter, because, as in this case in Corinth, it had been told to the whole church. But what it means is that nobody brings up the issue again or holds it over a forgiven person's head or reminds him or her of it every time any further difficulty occurs. It is a promise to drop the matter, leave it in the past, and never bring it up to anybody again.
Third, and probably most important, it is a promise to yourself that when your memory goes back to it, as it will occasionally, you are not going to allow it to seize hold of your heart and make you angry all over again. The minute it comes back to mind, you put it aside as something that belongs to the past. You are not going to dwell on it. It is a promise, therefore, to repeat your act of forgiveness, no matter how often the memory comes up. That is what forgiveness is; and Paul is ready to do this.
The reason, of course, is because he himself has been forgiven. People tell me sometimes,
I just can't forgive in this case. The person has admitted her wrongdoing and has asked me to forgive her, but I just can't do it. It hurt me too much. It is a revelation to me that the person who has been wronged has never realized how much he has been forgiven already. The basis for Christian forgiveness is always,
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
Lord, I remember how You took bread and passed it to Your disciples and said,This My body.This reminds me that the strength by which I am to act is Your strength, Your life in me. Remind me again that I have Your strength and Your life in me, and, therefore I can forgive.
Do we abort God's gift of forgiveness by failing to extend forgiveness to others as He forgave us? When we do forgive, do we also seek to forget the offense?