by Angela Martin

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9.

While I am no expert, I find technology to be very useful in every facet of life. One of the things that is very useful is the key on the computer keyboard that is spelled D-E-L. That’s right. The delete key. When working on some files, I accidentally press the delete button, only to watch all my hard work vanish into thin air. Fortunately, the computer gives me the “are you sure you want to delete these files” prompt which enables me to confirm the delete or bring the work back from the limbo it goes in.

I wish the delete key was so easy to press in real life. I wish it was that easy to remove the dealings with others that causes pain and hurt in our lives. We’d love to see the pain and bitterness gone, a non-issue, done away with the press of a button. But the problem is, we know that just pushing a button won’t make all the feelings disappear. It won’t totally undo the damage or put everything back like it was. It won’t turn back the clock. So why go to all the emotional trouble of truly forgiving others if it won’t repair the gaping hole in our hearts, at least not for a good long time?

In many ways, what happens when we trash a computer document is a vivid picture of what takes place when we truly forgive someone for an offense they’ve thrust upon us. We eliminate it. We clear the record. We treat it as if the offense never occurred in the first place. Believers, of all people, should appreciate the joy of forgiveness . . . because of knowing what a treasure it is to be purely and perfectly forgiven.

If we truly wish to forgive, we must make a conscious promise to forget as Christ forgets (Hebrews 10:17). Our promise to others is never to bring up that sin against that person again—not to God, not to the person who committed it, not to anyone else. It is a deliberate decision to deal with another’s sin by doing away with it, pressing the delete button, wiping it off our slate, or as I said on Sunday putting it into the trash.

Sometimes a woman will come up to me and say, “I’ve forgiven my husband” or “I’ve forgiven so-and-so”—and then she’ll begin listing all the hurtful things that person has done to her. While I can applaud her for recognizing what she needs to do, her own words reveal that she hasn’t truly, fully forgiven—because forgiveness is a promise. She hasn’t hit the delete button so the hurt is still there.

Not only is forgiveness our promise to others, but it’s also a promise God has made to us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12). Yes, what we did to Him was real. What we continue to do against Him is real. But by the atoning blood of His Son, God has chosen not to remember our offenses.

This matter of forgiveness is truly at the core—the very heart—of the gospel. Even our excuses for not forgiving keep bringing us back to the cross, back to where forgiveness was perfectly applied, not to a group of people who’d gone through all the right steps to become forgivable, but to us—to people who didn’t deserve it.

By continuing to monitor our lives and dealing with any trash that comes our way, we can keep clutter to a minimum and any relapses will be temporary. Then we begin to see our emotional trash for what it is, garbage. Today is garbage day. Take it out and then leave it there!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there any trash in your life that you are holding onto? What would you need to do to delete it?
  2. How do I know if I have forgiven?
  3. How could extending forgiveness heal a relationship? How might it heal the other person? How might it heal you?
  4. When you refuse to forgive, you are giving the person who hurt you the opportunity to hurt you again in your memory.  Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
  5. Share an example from your own experience when refusing to forgive hurt you.
  6. Pray and ask Jesus, the ultimate forgiver, to empower you, remembering that He has forgiven you.