“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).