Subscribe to Christianity Today
The God Who Forgets, part 2
(continued from previous article)
But what about God's memory? Will not God remember? Is not God's memory, as Rowan Williams puts it in Resurrection, the long memory of the victim, even if it is a memory of "the victim who will not condemn"? 9 Commenting on the encounter between the resurrected Lord and Peter, Williams argues beautifully that God, resisting the endemic forgetfulness of the offenders, restores to them their guilty past, though not so as to condemn them but as to make the restored past "the foundation for a new and extended identity. 10 What will happen, however, after God has narrated the history of the offender's sin in the context of grace 11 and has given the offender a new identity? The answer is so simple, and we are so used to hearing it, that we miss its profundity: God, to whom all things are present, will forget the forgiven sin. The God of Israel, who is about "to do a new thing" and who calls people "not to remember the former things," promises to blot their transgression out of God's own memory (Isa. 43:18-19, 25; cf. 65:17). "I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more" (Jer. 31:34).
What are the implications of God's "forgetting" of sins for the human forgetting of evil and wrongdoing? In seeking an answer to the meaning of God's forgetting, we must pay attention to the complex and multilayered dynamic of divine remembering and nonremembering. God remembers iniquities, remembers them well (Rev. 18:5). Yet God also forgets them. God remembers the iniquities just to forget them after they have been named as iniquities and forgiven. Why both remembering and forgetting? Because of another divine memory, much more important and powerful than the memory of the offense, a memory that defines the very identity of the God of Israel. Just as a woman cannot forget her nursing child, so God cannot forget Israel. Inscribed on the palms of God's hands, Israel is unforgettable even when she has offended and forgotten God (Isa. 49:15-16). ...