Does God Forgive and Forget? Q&R with Greg Albrecht
Q: While attending a Bible study one night in a church I used to attend the pastor stated, “when we ask forgiveness of God, he does forgive us but he never really does forget.” He was “clarifying” Hebrews 10:17. The pastor said, “After all, he is God, he knows everything, it would be impossible for him to forget.” I find myself angry at this minister even today and I haven’t seen him in years. I believe God does forget—however in the back of my mind this minister’s comments still haunt me. Please, tell me, does God forget or not?
A: I think I know what the minister may have meant. Part of what he may have been trying to say might be true, but as you remember what he said, his statement is not the gospel—it is not good news. The unexplained implication of what he did say is not only problematic, it leads us away from a relationship with God rather than closer to the love and intimacy he offers us.
On one hand, God is not limited to what humans dogmatically believe about him. Nothing is impossible for God (see Luke 1:37). He has all power. He can do anything he wants. That’s an academic, theological consideration. However, the other side is what he reveals to us in Scripture—in terms of what he chooses to do, out of his love and grace. God does not need to forgive us. He is not obligated. We don’t earn his grace. He loves us anyway, not because of our performance. He loves us out of his goodness.
To your point. Does God forget? In one sense, he does—he chooses to set our sins aside, not because he is forgetful—not because he has senior-itis—but because he chooses not to recall them. He can recall them, but chooses not to. See Psalm 103:11-12.