26 January 2011

Hebrews 10:11-18

"He also adds, 'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.'" (v. 17)


The writer of the book of Hebrews makes numerous references to Old Testament prophecies of the arrival of the Messiah or Jesus Christ. Hebrews suggests that all that took place before Christ's arrival - the rituals and rites associated with Judaism - were mere shadows of what was to come. As a result, the person and work of Jesus Christ are deemed superior to any of the previous religious practices. At the heart of this spiritual paradigm shift was a sacrificial system for the forgiveness/removal of wrongdoing or sin, in accordance with religious laws. The book of Hebrews argues that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has perfected and completed the previous religious system, which was deemed deficient and lacking.

Today's passage picks up the theme of sin and other forms of wrongdoing, and explains how the Lord now deals with them. The Bible, and the New Testament in particular, has much to say about human peccadilloes and the Lord's penchant to show mercy and dispense forgiveness. There is an obvious religious propensity to link forgiveness with forgetting. As a result, the terms 'forgive and forget' have almost become synonymous; one should follow the other like 'A follows B'.

It is revealing that the writer to the Hebrews uses the phrase "remember ... no more" rather than 'forget' in this instance. Although forgetting can be deemed an admirable trait, it can often be associated with human fallibility. In certain contexts, forgetfulness or forgetting are not positive attributes but weaknesses, whether we are talking about absentmindedness or something more serious. By contrast "remember ... no more" infers a deliberate act of will to disregard or not recall anything that has previously taken place. There is no probability of vagueness in this context. It can be argued that this is more in keeping with a perfect, all-powerful God who does not display weakness or any human infallibility.

To Ponder

Although we are often told to 'forgive and forget', this is a lot harder in reality. How far is it really possible to forgive and forget?

Forgiving and forgetting are said to be like two sides of the same coin - you cannot have one without the other. Are there instances when forgetting is inadvisable? For instance, the Holocaust.

If you are to remember, what might be appropriate ways (that also acknowledge forgiveness) be?

Bible notes author

Richard Reddie

Richard Reddie is an author and researcher, who for three years headed up the set all free project which marked the 2007 slave trade bicentenary. He also worked as an education policy officer for Race On The Agenda (ROTA), a social policy think-tank looking at issues affecting London's Black Minority Ethnic Community.