We serve a forgetful God. This forgetfulness reflects no fault in him, no weakness of his mind or memory. Rather, it reflects the strength of his mercy and grace, for he forgets only what would separate us from him, only what would alienate sinful humans from a holy God. It is our sinfulness that he puts out of his mind, our wickedness that he remembers no more. Though he has seen all the evil we have done and all the good we have left undone, still he has banished it all from his mind. He regards us as if we had never sinned, relates to us as if we had only ever been as righteous as Christ.
Such forgetfulness is intentional, not inadvertent, a decision, not a mistake. It is evidence of God’s character, a manifestation of his mercy. And it challenges us all with a question: Why should we remember what God forgets?
Why should we dwell upon the sins we have committed that God himself has forgotten? Why should we live in a shameful past that God has already put out of his faultless mind? No matter the object of our sin, no matter the gravity of our transgressions, each one has ultimately been directed at God. Against him, him only have we sinned and done what is evil in his sight, even when we’ve afflicted our own conscience or violated our fellow man. In each, God has stood as victim and as witness, but also as advocate and judge. In each, he has declared us not guilty, for he has counted those sins against Christ and counted Christ’s righteousness toward us. He has sunk those sins in the depths of the ocean, thrown them behind his back, put them away as far as east is from west. He has forgotten them all. And if we are to be holy as God is holy, then surely we ought to imitate our Father in his forgetfulness. Surely we ought to receive his forgiveness, to forget what we’ve done, to go forward in his mercy, and to sin no more.
And then why should we bring to mind the offenses others have committed against us when God has forgotten the offenses we have committed against him? He who has been forgiven much, loves much, and he who loves much, forgets much. If God keeps no record of wrongs, why should we? What right has a husband to keep an accounting of his wife’s sins and offenses, or a wife her husband’s flaws and failures, when God has gazed into the deepest depths of their hearts, when God has witnessed the hidden motives behind every one of their actions, and when he has forgotten all the depravity he has seen there? What benefit is there in a pastor storing up a list of a church member’s shortcomings when pastor and parishioner alike have sinned deeply and been forgiven freely? How could we who have received the sweet mercy of forgetfulness fail to grant it to another? Wouldn’t harboring the sins of another and counting them against him be asking God to remember our sins and count them against us? It is the glory of a man to overlook any offense because it is the glory of God to forget every trespass.
God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. And God continues to demonstrate his love for us by matching our sinning with his forgetting. As we turn away from our sins, he forgets our sins. His forgetfulness is inseparable from his forgiveness, it is proof of his pardon. And if we are called to be imitators of God as dearly beloved children, then we must forget what lies behind—all the sins we’ve committed, all the offenses we’ve suffered—and strain forward always and only to what lies ahead. We must learn to forget just like God forgets.