When memory leads to sin

Sometimes forgetfulness is a blessing in disguise. Today, we looked deeply at a portion of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, focusing on the second of the two conditional phrases in that simple prayer.

And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Jesus is not asking me to pay the price for another’s sin; he’s just telling me to forgive them. Let it go. Don’t count it against them.

What’s the purpose of forgiving the other? It’s not to save them; that’s Jesus’ work on the cross. When I forgive another, it clears the way for me to remain in good standing with the One who saved me.

This is the only part of this prayer on which Jesus felt it was necessary to comment.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Unforgiveness is a sin in Jesus’ eyes. I have to keep my accounts clear. When wrongs are not forgiven, relationships go south, get sour. The only way for them to be restored is through forgiveness. It’s hard, but in Christ, it’s possible.

But just like Jesus told me that I need to do good and forget, I also need to forgive and forget. The world says forgive, but don’t ever forget. That’s not what God does with us, nor is it what we should do with others.

It seems that sometimes memory holds us back, actually leading us to sin. When we maintain the memory of old wrongs, we will always be on guard for a second hurt. “Oh, that doesn’t surprise me that they did that. They hurt me just like that twenty years ago!”

Just like memories of old wrongs are sinful, memories of prideful actions will get us every time. “I can’t believe they treat me like this! With all I’ve done for them!”

Memories of old traditions also can lead us to sin by hindering the movement of the Holy Spirit in the church. “We’ve always done it that way! It will never work in this church!” or “We tried that before, and it nearly split the church!”

Finally, memories of the good ol’ days can lead us to have low expectations for what God might be wanting to do in our midst. “This new generation just doesn’t get it. We had the best music back then. We met every night of the week and revivals lasted two weeks! What can God do through a praise band and three-day revival?”

The only thing I really need to remember is that Jesus died for my sins and provided me salvation that was totally undeserved. When I remember that, I can live for him and share that good news with others, as I look forward to his return. Jesus is not coming again in the past, so why am I living there, holding onto past sins, memories and pride that do nothing but hinder the joy of the present and hope of the future?

Forgive and forget. Look ahead with anticipation of what God wants to do in and through you, as you keep your relationships on good standing — debt free.

Let love be your only debt! Love for God and love for others. Don’t let your memory hold you back!

Grace and Peace

3 thoughts on “When memory leads to sin

  1. This is a great post, thanks for sharing!

    “What’s the purpose of forgiving the other? It’s not to save them; that’s Jesus’ work on the cross. When I forgive another, it clears the way for me to remain in good standing with the One who saved me.” – This because you have described it so well. It’s not to save them, that’s Jesus’s work!- Profound really.

    The stuff you wrote about our memory leading to sin- that’s pretty confronting stuff and is why we need to think about what we are thinking about. We can also get physically ill when we hold on to un forgiveness. so many reasons to let go.

    Peace to you

    1. Thank you so much, brother, for your encouragement. I wrote this after an interesting discussion that came up while teaching our Bible study on Sunday morning. Someone expressed the need to remember wrongs even after we’ve forgiven, and I saw how easily that can be used by Satan against us. I’m glad it spoke to you as well. Blessings.

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