Forget “forgive and forget” – Part 1

Recently, a friend of mine called in tears saying her boyfriend had confessed to cheating on her. They had been beginning to discuss marriage after dating for a few years, and she was heart-broken. 

But equally upsetting was the internal struggle with what felt like a religious requirement: she is a Christian, so the Christian thing to do is to forgive him. 

Though forgiveness might be necessary eventually, she felt the pressure to forgive him immediately because he was honest, he was repentant, he said he wouldn’t do it again, and he still wanted to be with her. 

If he repents, I have to forgive him, right?” It felt like a forgone conclusion. It felt like something she had to do. It felt like a transaction that had to take place if she was truly a godly and loving woman. But she was angry, hurt, and her trust in him had been shattered. What does it look like to navigate this kind of situation with godliness and grace, while also being honest about the pain and broken trust that his actions had caused?

At some point, you’ve probably been advised to forgive and forget. There are a lot of idioms that leak into Christian culture but aren’t actually biblical; forgive and forget is one phrase. There is a shade of truth to it, and likely good intentions, but when it comes to forgiveness, it attempts to reduce a robust and transformative process into a transaction.

Christian counselor Dan Allender says, “Forgiveness is all too often seen as merely an exercise in releasing bad feelings and ignoring past harm, pretending all is well…True forgiveness…is a powerful agent in a process that can transform both the forgiver and the forgiven.” 

As Allender points out, we often diminish the work of forgiveness to be about how we feel, but true forgiveness bears all the marks of resurrection hope and power. Christian forgiveness is not about a feeling, it’s about participating in the Triune God who forgives sinners and restores them into right relationship with himself. Christian forgiveness is a scandalous thing, showing grace to the enemy, wiping full slates clean, and demonstrating in action the power of the gospel—that Christ died so that sinners like us could be saved. When we forgive someone else, we show them the power of the gospel in the most tangible way we can.


On one hand, forgiveness might seem straightforward—you just choose to forgive and move forward. But this simplistic understanding of forgiveness condenses a full orchestra of actions and processing into a single line of music.

Real forgiveness requires truth-telling and honesty, rediscovering the humanity of the person who hurt you, navigating reconciliation, reunion, restoration, and repentance. No, forgiveness is no easy task, but we must each learn its rhythms and overtures—not just to protect ourselves from bitterness and resentment, but to follow after Jesus, our forgiving King. 

True forgiveness is nothing short of the power of God at work among us. So when we have a small view of forgiveness and how to do it, we miss the power of God at work in our lives when he forgives us, we miss the power of God at work in the person who hurt us, we miss an opportunity to make much of Christ and his good, good news.

There is so much more to forgiveness than forgive and forget; it’s time we recover a more robust—and biblical—understanding of what forgiveness is and how we do it.

From Great to Good

What’s so great about being great? 

A few decades ago, Jim Collins wrote the book From Good to Great, a pathway for businesses and leaders to move from average to great. While Collins wrote to business owners, the phrase embodies the sentiments of our culture; why settle for good when you can be great?

While the pursuit of greatness is no new thing—history books are literally filled with stories depicting it, not to mention the Bible (Tower of Babel, anyone?)—what does seem new is the going out of style of goodness.

Karen Swallow Prior, a professor and writer teaches the classical virtues. Something she notes is how certain virtues have become very unpopular—prudence, temperance, and chastity, once prized and valued, are a waste of time in our modern culture.

But Prior also argues that for any virtue to be truly virtuous, it must be held in balance like a counterweight with the other virtues. For example, you cannot be truly just without also being temperate (restrained, using moderation, and self-controlled). Without temperance, justice would turn into tyranny.

Jesus teaches us the counterweight to greatness in Mark 9 when the disciples ask him who among them is the greatest. In response, he says, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).

In the economy of God, greatness is not wrong to pursue—Jesus doesn’t rebuke the disciples for being interested in greatness—but it is only achieved through goodness. Greatness grows from goodness. To be great, you must consider yourself the least important person in the room; spend your time serving others; humble yourself, not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less often, as CS Lewis says.

When you look at the church, it is all too easy to see disciples of Jesus missing this completely. Megachurches and celebrity pastors chase greatness, but when we see them disintegrate into spiritual abuse, affairs, and greed, it is clear they were not good. Not pursuing good, not making more of others than of themselves, not as interested in growing the Kingdom of God as their own kingdom.

Though Jesus tells the disciples to humble themselves and value goodness over greatness, we also see Jesus doing exactly that, offering a template of what true greatness looks like. This is why Pauls says, “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8-11).

The great one, God himself, chooses to serve, not lord his greatness over others, not consider himself more self-important than everyone else. No, the great one humbles himself unto the point of death, calls himself the Good Shepherd, and does good to those who persecuted him. This is greatness, and He calls us to the same greatness, achieved on the pathway of goodness.

To hunger for greatness is not wrong; we worship and are made in the image of a Great God. But the greatness we are made for is not the warped, greedy, broken greatness of our world, it is a greatness that comes by way of goodness, wielded with love, ever seeking to serve, and born of the Holy Spirit.

A king is not saved by his greatness (Ps 33:16), but we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph 2:10). May this be our greatest endeavor.

Jesus the Gardener

I grew up in a small house with a very large backyard, much of which was a meticulously planned and cultivated garden tended by my dad. The garden was such a fixture of my life that I didn’t realize most people didn’t grow up picking raspberries, throwing fallen apples at the big cottonwood tree, harvesting cherries before the birds got to them, and making carrot cake with fresh carrots for my mom’s birthday. 

When we were looking to buy a home a little over a year ago, I told our friend and realtor that I wanted room for a garden—maybe chickens—to which he replied, “you’ve been watching that woman, haven’t you?” 

While I knew immediately which woman he was referring to, Joanna Gaines wasn’t my inspiration for gardening. I had watched my dad daily participate in the life of our land, the growing of foods, delighting in flowers in bloom, and anticipating the ripening of his prized tomatoes. But even more than that, the desire to cultivate and slowly grow beautiful and new things is what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God. 

The first place we see Jesus after his resurrection is in a garden. When Mary goes to Jesus’ tomb in John 20:14-15, she turns “around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus…supposing him to be the gardener.” 

I always flew past this line in anticipation of his revelation to her and her response to realizing her Lord was alive. I always assumed that she thought he was the gardener because who else would be wandering the area at that time? But perhaps this mistaken identity was no mistake at all. Jesus was the gardener; Jesus is the gardener. 

Gardening is a metaphor used throughout the Scripture to illustrate how God interacts with His creation. In Isaiah 5, the gardener destroys the vineyard representing Israel because of their disobedience, but promises that out of the ruins a new shoot will bud, a new life of communion and union with God will grow and will never cease (Is 11). 

Jesus describes himself as the vine and us the branches who are dependent upon him for all of life. He also promises to prune the branches that are not bearing fruit, ensuring that each plant in his garden will reach maturity, flourish, and bear the fruit they are intended to bear (Jn 15). 

Jesus even refers to his coming death in terms of gardening when he says, “Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

But even more than a metaphor God uses to describe human relationship and development in Him, the story of God begins with the garden, the place that God chose to make for his people and dwell in their midst, and ends with new creation—a restoration of all things, the Edenic glory and beauty and wonder that we were made for perfectly restored. Our heritage was a garden, but it’s our future too. This is why GK Chesterton says,

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of a gardener God walked again in the garden, not in the cool of the evening, but in the dawn.”

Jesus, our Master Gardener, is doing a new thing. He is recreating the torn down vineyard of Isaiah 6; he is rooting and establishing new life so that it might grow and flourish; he is pruning and tending and delighting in new growth. But he also invites us into his work—to take up his work, to garden alongside of Him as those who also cultivate the Kingdom of God. 

As you pluck ripe tomatoes and grate zucchinis for bread, remember that you are participating in a much larger work. We are laboring with the Great Gardener, tending to the coming Kingdom of God, and delighting in the beauty of God’s creation as we patiently wait for the fullness of all creation to be restored (Rom 8).