Too often we equate forgetting the past with forgiveness. We believe that to forgive someone means completely forgetting the wrongdoing they committed. And, since forgiveness is a biblical concept, we then tend to impose that view upon the Scriptures. However, this should not be the case. If you want to know what the Bible says about forgetting the past it’s quite simple: nothing, if we are dealing with forgiveness. Though there are verses that talk about forgetting what we have done in our own lives in order to move forward, it is more of a figure of speech than anything. The Bible is not advocating we wipe our minds miraculously; to do so would be impossible for us! But, it does speak volumes about not letting our past dictate our futures and being able to press forward in life, without lagging behind (especially spiritually!). So, here are some statements that the Bible makes concerning forgetting the past and what they mean in their proper historical-grammatical context.
Forget what lies behind you and press forward towards the goal
In Philippians 3:13-14 it reads: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Ultimately, the only thing of the past that we should constantly dwell on is the cross—and the cross overcomes and overwhelms any past mistakes or sins we may have committed. No longer should we be chained to our sin; we are free to press forward and cling to Jesus!
We are not who we were
When we accepted Christ as our Lord and savior, the Holy Spirit began indwelling us and starts changing us from the inside-out. 2 Corinthians 5:17 claims: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” In other words, we are not who we were. If we accepted Christ, we are a new creation and should live as such. We have cast off the old, filthy flesh for a newer and more pure one.
There are times when we should not forget
Sometimes, God specifically requires that we remember—and not forget (duh)—things that we did in the past. One obvious reason for this is to recall the consequences we had to endure and to no longer go back to it. After all, isn’t that exactly how we often parent our kids? Yes, sometimes we will tell them to forget they did something, but most of the time don’t we recall what they did to point out the obvious consequences? We don’t bring it up to condemn them, but we do it to warn them and steer them in the right direction. Deuteronomy 9:7 proclaims: “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.” Although this is occurring in a specific time, in a specific place, to a specific people it is nonetheless applicable by extension to us.
Always remember what God has done for us
Although this is not technically about forgetting, I think it’s important to put this one in here. Psalm 77:11 says “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember your wonders of old.” Likewise, Psalm 103:2 states: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” It is certainly a good practice to remember all that God has given and sacrificed for us. Only then will we be able to unshackle any chains of our past and start pressing closer and closer to Him.
The Bible does mention forgetting certain things, but it’s not necessarily speaking about wiping our minds completely of a specific act (is that even possible to do, intentionally?). Rather, it is speaking about not allowing our past to dictate our future behaviors. All in all, the Scriptures tell us to remember Christ above everything else—and when we truly do that—everything else comes into a proper perspective and light.
Article by: Michael Krauszer