The right to be forgotten

“And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17).

Something happened this week to remind me of a note I received from a preacher some time back.

On my website, I had reported that the local newspaper was telling of the arrest of this man for incest.  I was appropriately concerned that servants of the Most High God should conduct themselves by higher standards and I probably shamed this fellow for his iniquity.

The man wrote, “All charges against me were dropped.  But every time I try to get a job and the employer googles my name, your article comes up telling of my arrest. That’s the end of that job.”

He needed me to go back into my files, find that article, and delete that story.

It took some doing, but I managed to find the article and erase the story. Then, I sent him an apology.

It was a well-learned lesson, and I’ve been cautious ever since.

It turns out that this is a far-reaching problem with all kinds of legal dimensions.

In Italy, when a local politician was charged with corruption, the newspapers went to town on it.  Later, however, he was acquitted, a fact that did not receive near the coverage of the initial charge.  When prospective clients typed the man’s name into their search engines, the first thing to appear was the sensational account of his arrest.  Few people stayed with the search long enough to find out the man was acquitted.

The Italian Supreme Court ruled the newspapers have an obligation to make sure that their files contain the whole story, not only the initial charges but also the outcomes, and to make sure the latter appear as prominently as the first.

The court calls this “the right of oblivion.”

Washington Post writer Richard Cohen writes about Hillary Clinton’s possible bid for the White House and the way opponents continue to trot out the old stories to use against her.  In her defense, he writes, “She was never allowed to live her own life, to be the person she wanted to be and to have the marriage she wanted others to think she had.  She lacked what the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship has memorably called ‘the right to be forgotten.’ This is a marvelous term, based on French law (the ‘right of oblivion’) and as ephemeral and concrete as our ‘pursuit of happiness’ to which it has to be linked.” (The New Orleans Advocate, May 28, 2014)  (NOTE:  This is not about Hillary Clinton, but about the point Cohen was making.  We do not welcome comments pro or con concerning Mrs. Clinton’s politics or her candidacy for the White House. Thank you for respecting this.)

The right to be forgotten.

I have written to the New Orleans paper in years past to protest a practice I find most distasteful. Some prominent citizen will die and the newspaper will give us a rundown of his/her life and career, including the fact that 30, 40, or 50 years ago, the deceased was charged with something or other and driven from office in humiliation.

My letter states, “The family is grieving the death of a loved one and you force them to relive the most painful episode in their lives because you feel it necessary to tell the world something bad they did a lifetime ago. Shame on you.”

One editor replied something to the effect that “That’s our job. It may not be fun, but this is real life.”

Scripture makes it clear that while the Lord is committed never to forget us (see Isaiah 49:14-16 for one excellent statement), He does forget our sins which have been forgiven.  Hebrews 10:17, our text above, is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:34.

David the “sweet singer of Israel” had this to say on this subject: “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Thy lovingkindness remember Thou me, For Thy goodness’ sake, O Lord” (Psalm 25:7).

Forget my sins; remember me.  (Know that feeling? I do.)

Thank God for His forgiveness which is so superior to the kind we see on every hand. As a young husband said to me about his wife’s wrong-doings, sins which he told her he had forgiven: “I have forgiven her. I just can’t forget it.”

The human limitation is ever with us.  Thank God for a Savior whose forgiveness is total.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7).





2 thoughts on “The right to be forgotten

  1. in 1990 I as a Christian was guilty of a financial sin that brought disgrace to my business, myself, and most importantly my wife. I was sentenced to a half way house for 6 months. At the time we lived in a small town of 1500. It was like we had leprosy. After all this time it is still not forgotten. My wife and I had had a prison ministry for 12 years and I had opportunities to speak in many churches. Through time and the love from some Christian brothers and sisters [ not from 1st Baptist] I was able to begin to put ours lives back together. Could tell you many stories of redemption , remorse, & judgement but God was graceful to us. I knew God had forgiven me but had such a horrible time forgiving myself. Once laying prostrate before God as I wept and told God ” I am son ashamed I have disappointed you” .
    What I heard back in my spirit freed me . ” Do you believe I am the great I AM, the ONE who is omniscient?” I said “YES”. “When one disappoints one it is because they have failed to measure up to expectations. Since I already knew all you were going to do before you ever did it, How could you disappoint me?” That saved my life. The end result is I have become one who carries no rocks in my pockets.

    • Wonderful, Brother Leon. Thank you for this. Along the same line, I love to remind my brethren of Psalm 103:14. “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” The point being God is under no illusion about you and me. He knew He was getting no bargain when he saved us. When we sin, the only one surprised is us. God bless you, friend.

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