QUESTION: "If you forgive someone for something awful, how do you forget it? Or are forgiving and forgetting the same thing?"
Mr. and Mrs. Floyd H.,
ANSWER: "Forgive and forget" is an old saying we have all heard, but it is not found in the Bible. While Christ taught that if our brother wrongs us and repents, we are to forgive him (even if this happens seventy times seven times! — Matthew 18:21-22), He did not require that we forget. In many cases, forgetting what our neighbor has done to us would be humanly impossible, although ideally that is what we should strive to do. (But if we can't completely forget, the very least we can do is to never mention the offense again or hold it against the person in any way.) God, in contrast, has the power to perfectly forget our sins once we have repented (Isa. 43:25). But even though God forgave the prophets and patriarchs of old, he still allowed their sins to be recorded and remembered in the Bible, as an example to others (I Cor. 10:11).
Q: "In the article on human potential, it states: 'The physical body decays but the spirit that was in the body preserves the form, the shape, the memory and the character.' Does this mean that in the resurrection our dear ones will remember the terrible pain and suffering they endured just before death and during their lifetimes? I am anxious to have this explained."
A: Those who are resurrected as immortal spirit beings will, like God, have perfect memories. But the memory of our past life, will not be painful Jesus Himself "learned obedience through what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8). Christ is not now suffering at the right hand of the Father. David wrote: "... At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11, KJV). If we were to totally forget what we had suffered, there would be no point in going through such trials in the first place. But God promises that in His Kingdom He will "wipe away every tear... and death shall be no more... for the former things [shall] have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).
Q: "Why would Christ admonish the faithful to pray, 'lead us not into temptation'? (Matt. 6:13.) It would seem that God would never deliberately lead a person away from good. Since God is always righteous and perfect and knows us well, would this scripture mean that God is always testing us?"
EI Paso, Texas
A: God has set up this world and its temptations as a training ground for the life to come. The trials we are faced with give us an opportunity to exercise our free moral agency and develop the type of godly character that we will need as members of God's Kingdom. James 1:13-15 reads: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person, is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death." In light of this scripture, we can conclude that Matthew 6:13 means that we are to ask God to keep us from situations where we; will be tried severely. God, however, promises that we will never be tested beyond our strength (I Cor. 10:13).
Q: "If a person were baptized without first repenting, would he or she ever be forgiven by God?"
A: Repentance is the key to forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38; 3:19). If a person is baptized without first repenting, then his or her sins are not forgiven. But whether or not those sins are ever forgiven depends on whether or not that person repents in the future. They may again be baptized as a symbol of the death of their old self and resurrection to new life in Christ with His Holy Spirit. But God is very merciful — He is glad to forgive us whenever we repent (Ps. 86:5). For more on this subject, read our free booklets What Is a Real Christian? All About Water Baptism and What Do You Mean - The Unpardonable Sin?
Q: "For many years I have known that we should not eat blood; but in the July GN a Q&A spoke of fat and blood. In Leviticus 7:23 the children of Israel were told to eat no manner of fat. In practically all cuts of meats today some fat is mingled with the lean. This is especially true in marbled steaks and ground beef. How do we avoid the eating of some fats in our meats?"
A: The Bible clearly shows us that it is not wrong to eat meat that is tender and well-marbled. In Christ's parable of the prodigal son, the father killed a "fatted calf" to celebrate his son's return (Luke 15:23). The kind of fat which is to be avoided is the type that can be easily cut off before or after cooking. Most doctors today recognize that this form of saturated fat probably contributes to circulatory diseases and other health problems. The better grades of ground beef in particular do not contain a significant amount of fat if cooked and drained — only as much as one would get from eating a well-marbled cut of meat.
Q: "A man was talking to me about reincarnation and based most of his evidence on the Bible, John 9:2 specifically. I've been trying to figure out, just what that verse does mean. How could the man sin before his birth, unless he had lived before? Please explain."
A: John 9:1-2 reads: "As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Your friend apparently infers from this scripture that people can sin before they are born, reasoning that the blind man would have had to have sinned before he was born in order to be penalized at birth. This kind of reasoning goes totally against the thrust of the rest of the Bible. The plan of God, as outlined in the Scriptures, makes no allowance for men to pass through a series of lives before being admitted into some sort of Nirvana or paradise. The Bible shows that people have no consciousness before their present life, and none after death until they are resurrected and given either eternal life or death. (For more on this subject, read our free booklet Do You Have an Immortal Soul? and the reprint article "If You Die, Will You Live Again?") Notice also that Christ answered His disciples in the negative: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be. made manifest in him" (John 9:3). In other words, this was a situation planned or allowed to occur by God in order to make known to the world that Jesus Christ was His Son.
Q: "What does Peter mean when he states that the gospel was preached to 'dead men' (Greek), that they 'might be judged... in the flesh, but live... in the spirit'?" Nicholas M., Mt. Zion, West Virginia
A: I Peter 4:5-6 reads: "But they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God." This scripture is referring to people who are now dead, but had the gospel preached to them while they were alive. The context (verse 5), which refers to God judging "the living and the dead," refers to the time of the resurrection when those who are now dead will be made alive once again. This is the only logical explanation in light of the other clear Bible passages on this subject. Other scriptures show that God is "not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him" (Luke 20:38, KJV). For a more thorough explanation of life after death, read our free booklets entitled After Death... then What? Do You Have an Immortal Soul? and the free reprint "What Will You Be Like in the Resurrection?"
Q: "About your article on birth control, God never says to worry about material things (education, population, food supplies). Why are you worried about them? If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, all would be taken care of. What is impossible with men to solve is possible with God."
A: God does require that Christians exercise faith. He also does not want us to take any "anxious thought" about material things (Matt. 6:25-34). (See several modern translations of verse 25. It is not properly translated in the King James Version.) But God also expects us to be responsible stewards of whatever He gives us (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27) — including the ability to procreate, or not procreate if the situation warrants it. The apostle Paul recognized that there could be unusual times when it would even be unwise to marry (see I Cor. 7:26). To quote another statement from the Bible: "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26, KJV). We are not to tempt God (Matt. 4:6-7) by placing ourselves in jeopardy if it is in our power to control certain areas of our lives. In the same way, God will not bless and protect us if we flagrantly violate principles of wisdom and common sense. God does not expect us to have more children than we can reasonably expect to support and nurture properly. The means are available by which we can limit our families, and if we do not avail ourselves of them, we cannot expect God to unconditionally bail us out of our self-inflicted predicament.
Q: "In David Jon Hill's article, 'What the World Needs Is Hope,' it was stated that God plans to expand His family for eternity by adding sons and daughters. Will God do this by spiritual creation as He created the angels, or is this given for us to know (I Cor. 2:9)?"
A: The concept that God will continue to expand His family for eternity is a very logical inference drawn from Isaiah 9:7, a prophecy of Christ which states: "Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end...." Some have speculated that when each of us are immortal spirit beings, sons of God in His family, we will have a part in extending God's Kingdom throughout the universe. Perhaps God will create other human beings on other planets in the universe who will then be afforded an opportunity to become members of God's family as we were. Detailed specifics about the next life are few and far between in the Bible, but we are promised: "... I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).
Q: "Should a Christian drink coffee or tea?"
A: Coffee is a mild stimulant which is usually not harmful if used moderately. Most people can tolerate and enjoy it with no harmful effects. However, some people find that even a small amount causes nervousness, and they would probably be better off not to drink it at all. The same principle applies to tea. For more on the subject of psychoactive substances like coffee, tea, chocolate, wine, whiskey, and so forth, read our new booklet The Dilemma Of Drugs.