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December Q&A

I'm finding it hard to forgive and (especially) to forget what someone has done to me. I know the Bible tells us to forgive, but is it necessary to forget? What if I still have hard feelings toward that person??

Forgiveness and forgetfulness are not the same thing. You may never forget the effect of someone’s injury against you. Remembering may even serve as an alert against being injured again in the same way. Christian theologian Lewis Smedes wrote, “If you forget, you will not forgive at all.” In fact, one forgives most completely when one has first fully acknowledged the depth and extent of the offense. That can be a long, reflective process that may or may not include the offender’s admission of wrong.

Too many Christians try to hurry the process along. They move so quickly to forgetting that they may actually be in denial rather than practicing true forgiveness. However, remembering does not mean you should continue to let the offense have power over you. As Smedes notes, “We have the power to forgive what we still do remember.” That power is available through Jesus Christ. The much-quoted passage, Ephesians 4:32, says: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We can do that most profoundly when we reflect on how God forgives our sins constantly. That inspires humility. The freedom forgiveness brings to the spirit is palpable. While we may always remember the hurt, we pray toward the time when we can forgive with no weight or pressure, but with a letting go.

Rereading Psalms, I'm struck by the psalmist's obsessive pleas to punish sinners and destroy enemies, compared to Jesus' love for sinners and admonition to "turn the other cheek." Why is this?

Your observation is apt. Anyone reading the Psalms may be troubled to come upon passages where the writer implores God to punish his enemies in specific and sometimes violent ways. If we are honest though, in our heart of hearts, we may at times resonate with these passages. These are called the “Imprecatory Psalms,” calling for curses on the enemy (Psalms 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, and others).

It is important to note that there is something good about the psalmist’s recognition of evil and his desire for justice and righteousness. It is right to hate evil and to want it avenged. In an essay in his book Reflections on the Psalms (chapter 3), C. S. Lewis doesn’t excuse the Psalmist’s practice, but he does argue that the sense of moral indignation behind these curses is better than the indifference of those who live looking the other way, those who fail to call out what is wrong. However, while the psalmist’s curses are understandable human responses, they are not examples of what is right. We must examine our feelings, catching bitterness and hatred, asking God for the ability to forgive, and then trusting Him for the outcome.

I've heard people say we should be "students" of the Word. What does that mean, really?

First of all, it is helpful to define the word student. One dictionary describes a student as one devoted to learning—a pupil, a scholar—especially one who attends a school or who seeks knowledge from teachers or books. The essence of being a student of the Word is that the best way to read the Bible, since it is crucial to what motivates a believer and central to his or her life choices, is to read it attentively, using good resources. The good news is you don’t have to be a scholar to do this. My grandfather never graduated from college, but he was a memorable pastor, had a great library, and knew the Bible well. My mother knew as much if not more than a Bible college graduate because she loved and studied the Bible. I would consider them both students of the Word.

In fact, we can read the Bible every day obediently and still not get much out of it if we don’t pay attention to detail. To be a student of the Word means to read it through, engaging with the text, writing down your questions, looking up words you don’t understand, or maps to place the locations. To understand the biblical context, the history, the purpose of the writing, the meaning of the passages, you can use a good Bible commentary or even talk with your pastor or a Bible teacher. When we become students of anything, whether cooking, car mechanics, or an academic discipline, it means learning in an organized, in-depth fashion. We expend effort to really understand and grow in the area of our choosing. It is a worthy goal for every believer to be a student of the Word (2 Tim. 2:15).

BY Dr. Rosalie de Rosset

Dr. Rosalie de Rosset has been teaching at Moody Bible Institute in the Communications Department for over five decades. She is occasionally featured on Moody Radio. Rosalie is a published author, respected speaker, and talented writer. She lives on the northside of Chicago, a city she enjoys for its natural beauty and multi-faceted art offerings.

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