ATP - How to Forgive When You Can't Forget

(Pt 1) 


In 1 Kings 2King David, the man after God's own heart, is about to go the way of all the earth. He calls Solomon (the son who will succeed him as king) to his side and encourages him to walk in the ways of the LORD. In so doing David addresses three areas of his personal life that he considers unfinished business:

  1. He tells Solomon not to let the head of Joab, the commander and chief of his army, go to his grave in peace because he shed innocent blood in the time of peace.
  1. He tells Solomon to show kindness to the sons ofBarsillai because they stood by his side when he fled from Absalom.
  1. He tells Solomon to remember (that is not forget) Shimei son of Gera who pelted him with stones and curses when he was fleeing from Absalom during the rebellion. (TT 1 Kings 2 p 375)

1 Kings 2: 8-9  p 375

"And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite …, who called down bitter curses on me the day I [fled from Absalom]. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: 'I will not put you to death by the sword.' 9But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood."


1) Don't mess with King David.  Smile!

2) David forgave Joab in that he allowed him to continue to captain his armed forces – but he did not forget the injustices which stained his name and profaned the name of the Almighty. 

3) David forgave Shimei allowing him to live duringhis life time, but he did not forget the injustice that needed to be reconciled before God. 

In other words, it would be death to David if he carried all the offences committed against him during his life time.  You cannot hold on to another's transgressions against you – it is spiritual, emotional, and physical death.  You either have to let it go or deal with it, but to carry it is death.  This is what David did – let it go by exercising forgiveness.

Yet, David is saying to Solomon, although I forgave

Joab and Shimei, I know before God what must be done to clear my name before the LORD: I know what God considers justice – and you must see that justice is done.  Vengeance is not mine to execute – that's God's jurisdiction, therefore see that you do what I was unable to do.  It is your duty before God.

  1. At first this appears contradictory, but it isn't.On one hand God calls David to forgive while on the other hand he calls David not to forget – in both matters David acts honorably.

You say, Pastor that's Old Testament.  True!  But it is also New Testament.  When Paul closes his letter to Timothy he echoes the sentiments of King David in regards to how he was treated in his lifetime. 

2 Tim. 4:14-15 p 1360

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.


1) On the personallevel, like Paul, when transgressed against, we must forgive – itis not in our authority to execute judgment – that's the Courts job.  These are the authorities God has established to facilitate the execution of justice. (Romans 12; Titus 3)  [God has an order for every realm of life.  There is an order in the home, an order in the church, an order in the government.  There is civil law and federal law.  And there is a law – that is a procedure – in how we as humans are to settle transgressions and offences.]  Again on the personallevel, if we don't forgive, we pay the price. We become immobilized.  Sickness will eat us up and we will be unable to function in spiritual freedom and physical health.  Forgiveness is not an option it's a command!  

2) On the other hand if we forget the injustices we are foolish.  Why? Because, as seen in Paul's warning to Timothy about Alexander, we have a responsibility to protect others, ourselvesand the cause of righteousness.  To forget is to do everyone a disservice. 

THINK THIS THROUGH!  When King David fled Jerusalem and passed by Shimei who heaped curses upon him and pelted him with stones, would it not be rather foolish to go the same route when returning to Jerusalem.  Why place his life and the lives of others in jeopardy?  Now to seek vengeance on Shemei is something David must let go, for everyone's sake, including his own (otherwise he would go that way again), but to forget what happened is an endangerment to himself and everyone else. Hear me!  You must forgive; you do not have to forget.  And, in most cases – as in the case of Shimei and Alexander -- it is not wise to forget. 

In this message we will explore this truth, and examine the healing that comes in resolving offences and forgiving others.


Illustration: Jan Frank

It was Wednesday, June 28, 1989, two church ministry leaders and I traveled to Eastern College to attend the annual Exodus XIV Conference – a gathering of mostly homosexuals, both male and female. 

There were many excellent and well known speakers addressing a number of subjects ranging from "The Roots of Homosexuality," to "Healing the Hurts of the Past," to "Divine Dependence."

My initial intention was to attend as many different sessions as possible before the dinner hour, then head home.  We all stayed through the last evening session. 

One of the offerings/classes that caught my interest was "Healing the Hurts of the Past," because, as pastors we deal daily with people's past hurts.  The faces may be many:

Sexual abuse
Verbal abuse
Physical abuse
Extreme criticism
Religious upbringing
Generational sins – I don't mean this to be vulgar or demeaning, but  I met with a lovely young lady whose mother taught her she had a goldmine between her legs. (Those of you who have never had to carry devastating generational sins – don't be too quick to pass judgment.)

and, the list goes on.

I don't know that I have ever experienced an hour go that quickly. I listened – spellbound – to the candid story of a lady who as an eight year old girl saw her parents divorce, her mother remarry, and a man who served as a deacon in a fundamental church molest both she and her sister.

 The results were typical:

  • Parents are God's representatives and always
  • Therefore, what he tells me must be true, "I'm the one to blame. I'm the one at fault.  I must make my step–dad do these things.  He can't help himself; it must be me." 
  • If I try and tell anyone, well it will be: "Jan's got a wild imagination."

 So Jan Frank becomes:

  • An overachiever
  • Promiscuous
  • Battles states of –
  1. Depression
  1. Anger
  1. Fear
  1. Shame and guilt
  • She has difficulty in establishing relationships, after all if you can't trust your parents, who can you trust?
  • Low self-esteem
  • Physical repercussions
  • And, the list goes on.
  1. But more than anything else she has had to bury the hurts and not tell anyone … and, yes, live at home with a mother who knew, yet denies, and a stepfather who acts as if nothing is wrong continuing to function as a spiritual giant in the Church. [I am not making this up – this is real life.]

MORE AND MORE– I come across, in the Church,dysfunctional lives and homes because of childhood molestation and abuse that has been swept under the carpet and never dealt with.  (One survey – and I must be integral here because surveys can be flawed at inception – tells us that 9 out of 10 people who are in prison were molested or sexually abused.)



  1. Jan married, but the struggles with mood swings,anger, and a critical spirit continued.As a wife and mother she prayed: "Lord, change these unattractive qualities in my life." And the LORD gently took her to Psalm 51:6

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;

you teach me wisdom in the inmost place;

and said,

"Jan, the wounds of the past have not been healed.

  1. From that moment on, the author of "A Door of Hope,"began a journey to recoverthe wholeness lost by the hurts of the past.

  2. One of Jan's first steps was also one of the most difficult – it was confronting her step-dad.

UNDERSTAND– Where there has been a horizontaltransgression (person to person), the only way healing can come to bothparties is to deal with it horizontally (person to person).  This is why Jesus said in Matthew 18:15

    "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you (KJV – alone; NASB – in private). If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 

IN MOST CASES one on one is the least painful solution, the more people involved the messier it becomes.  Too many opinions equal too many hurts.  There is a reason why God said, "Start with one on one."  If that doesn't work, then the LORD gives further instructions in this very chapter.        

(Back to Jan.)  When she called her step-dad

asking to get together, his reply was, "Jan, do you consider yourself a Christian?  Well, I thought all goodChristians forgive and forget!"

All good Christians must forgive, but all good

Christians need not forget. 


  1. Let's begin with an illustration, then next week we'll amplify upon this truth, and the reality of transforming the hurts of the past (usually a result of a transgression – someone else's or your own) into the something beautiful.

  2. This slide (screen) is a picture is one of God's great miracles. It is a picture of a giant Sequoia


If we were to slice it it would look like this.

Let's put it under a microscope.  

Each ring symbolizes a year in the life of the tree; each ring is autobiographical.  Behind the protective bark are the recorded rings of its life: birth, drought, fire, competition for light and water, insect attacks, ample nourishment, trouble free years and troubled years. 

As the autobiographical rings of the Sequoia can not be removed without killing it, neither can the rings of our lives. 

  1. Remember God is God. He specializes in what man considers impossible. In fact, He glories in transforming the transgressions of the past into the beauty of the present.  He glories in taking the unsightly and making it a masterpiece.  He delights in taking what we cannot forget and converting it into a memory that brings Him glory, us hope and others healing.  



Admit – your wrongs/sins have separated you from a Holy God.  (Psa 14:1-3; Rom 3: 23)                                                                      

Believe – that God did something about your sins in Christ.  (The final Pascal Lamb/Messiah.) Lev 17:10; Heb 9: 19-22

Commit – to His righteous by confessing Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.  (Isa 53:5; Col 1:22)

Do it today  (Isa 49:8; 2 Cor 6:2)















  1. What were the three things King David told Solomon, his son, relational to unfinished personal business?





In one and three David says to his son, "I have ______________ but not ______________ -- execute justice. 


  1. Why is it imperative to let go of a person's transgression against you? What is the aftermath of not forgiving another's transgression against you?


  1. In what way does Paul echo the same sentiments as King David? Read 2 Tim 4:14 – 15and comment.Why isit not in our authority to execute judgment?  What aresome of the authorities God has established to execute judgment and justice? 


  1. (Fill in the blanks.) Forgiveness is not an ______________ it's a ______________.


  1. (Fill in the blanks.) Why is it necessary to not forget? We have a responsibility to ______________ others, ourselves and the cause of _________________.  "To forget is to do everyone a ________________."


  1. Why would King David have jeopardized himself and those with him if he had forgotten what Shimei had done to him?


  1. Who is Jan Frank? Why was her story important to the message (and lesson)? Name some of the many hurts of the past the Church deals with on a daily basis?  Discuss"generational" sins.  Why dochildren, when molested, usually keep quiet?  What aresome of the typical symptoms of those who are sexually abused or molested?  What was the verse God used to propel Jan to confront her step-dad?  Discuss Psalm 51:6. 


  1. Why mustall horizontaltransgressions be resolved "person to person?" Discuss Matthew 18:15. Discussthe wisdom in "going alone?"  What isthe next step if your transgressor does not hear you? 


  1. Why is"to forgive" and "not forget" not a contradiction? Do youagree with the Pastor's thesis? If not, why not? 


  1. In what way does the Sequoia Tree illustration evidence the truth of Pastor's thesis – "we must forgive but not forget?" How,like the rings in the Sequoia, are the years of our life autobiographical? Why isit death to cut the ugly or less pleasant years out of the life of the Sequoia?  In what waydoes this truth apply to our lives? 


  1. Discuss and explainwhat Pastor meant when he said:

God specializes in what man considers impossible.  In fact, He glories in transforming the transgressions of the past into the beauty of the present.  He glories in taking the unsightly and making it a masterpiece. He delights in taking what we cannot forget and converting it into a memory that brings Him glory, us hope and others healing.

How doesthis paragraph convey the truth, "God has called us to forgive but not forget?"


12.(Sing the chorus of "Something Beautiful" by Bill and Gloria Gaither.)   In what way does this chorus convey the truth of God's amazing power to convert the ugly (what you would like to forget) into something beautiful?