If Thou, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with Thee,
That Thou may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)
It is awesome, even fearful (awe-inspiring) that through the atonement of Yeshua God is willing to forgive us. But it is even greater than that: God does not just forgive, His promise of complete atonement actually includes this amazing fact: God totally FORGETS our sins! In the prophecy of the “New Covenant” (the only place the term is found in the OT), Jeremiah declares:
“…for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer 31:34)
In Yeshua, in the New Covenant, God’s forgiveness is so complete that our sins are forever erased—blotted out and no longer brought to remembrance in heaven. This is how the Apostle Paul can speak of believers as being “new creations” (2 Cor 5:17), because the Creator now deals with us as new people, without all of our past baggage of sin weighing us down. Amazing Grace! What a liberating thought. Hallelujah!!!
Conditions for Forgiveness
But what about us? In Matthew 6:14-15, Yeshua conditions our forgiveness on whether we are able (or willing!?!) to forgive others like the Father wants to forgive us. Can we forgive like He forgives? Can we even forget like He forgets? What would it mean to live this way, with this divine “amnesia?”
On my recent trip to Asia, I was again challenged to think about these things. Recently we wrote about the 70 year window of Biblical time that we are approaching since the end of WWII (1945-2015). The wartime wounds and memories still condition the relationship between peoples and nations—especially between Israel & Germany, and Japan & the nations of East Asia. But, we are approaching a time when the Lord desires to “forgive and forget,” enabling nations and peoples to move forward into the future on the grounds of the “new creation” and not the past.
From what I can see, this is most challenging for two peoples: the Jews and the Chinese. We Jews are practically obsessed with memorializing the past: in Israel almost every street name remembers something (both happy and sad); at our most joyous nuptial celebrations, we remember the destruction of the 2nd Temple 2000 years ago when the groom crushes a glass with his foot. On the other hand, modern Chinese identity is deeply based on anti-Japan collective memory of wartime things like the Nanjing Massacre—whose new museum, I learned this time, is partly based on the Yad v’Shem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
Every year, on Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, our people proclaim: “Never forgive, Never forget!!” (May God help us!) As New Covenant Jews and Chinese, do we have the courage to stand and proclaim this Gospel of forgiveness, even at the national level. How long do we plan to remember in this way? How long will this remembrance condition our very identity, our sense of who we are as a people? While there can be a godly memorializing and healthy grieving period, there comes a time when our memories can simply perpetuate a victim mentality based on a posture of unforgiveness. This is sin. God wants to forgive and forget; He is moving forward in His plan to bring the restoration of all things to this planet.
I shared this message recently at a small conference of Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese in Osaka, Japan. Afterwards, a Chinese leader came up and thanked me for my message, and explained that God had been showing him and his group similar things as of late. He also shared that as he began to proclaim these things (love and forgiveness towards Japan) his uncle, a non-Christian Communist Party member, called him and screamed, “how can you dare say such things! We must never forgive what Japan did…”
Confronting Deep Wounds
For Jews and Chinese to take a stand like this is not an easy thing: publicly expressing such sentiments brings us into direct confrontation with deep-seated wounds, pride, and strongholds of hatred, fear, and unforgiveness amongst our peoples. But, I believe, after about 70 years in His economy of mercy and judgment, the sin of unforgiveness on the part of the victim nation gradually becomes a greater sin than that originally perpetrated upon them by the aggressor nation. For a time, God respects and wants to heal our wounded, victimized nature; but the time comes when He says, “enough, how long will you hold on to your victimhood—look at my Son, He is the true ‘victim’ upon whom the sins of the entire world have been placed. Do you want to accept Him and forgive and be healed? Or do you want to continue to hold on to the offenses, justify yourself, and perpetuate your victim-oriented identity?
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)
Can we Jews and Chinese forgive and put the sins of Germany and Japan away from us, “as far as the east is from the west?” And thus change the history of the nations of the world—both east and west??