Saturday, May 2, 2009

One Last Thing Before I Go

And now the final installment of ruminations on the subject of "remembering."

In the Church we speak optimistically of putting our former ways behind us and "pressing on" to a new life. We love Philippians 3, when Paul says that he forgets "what is behind." We love it! We eat it up and pledge to forget, too. It is a believer's duty!

Once long ago I spoke with a believing friend who had sinned and hurt someone, in spite of being a New Creation. He acknowledged the mistake but was largely unrepentant. Rather than make things right or even apologize to the hurt friend, he told me a very ugly thing: "God has forgiven me, and that is enough."

But. . .it is enough for what?

The answer, of course, was "enough" to ease his guilty conscience. It was not "enough," though, to comfort our wounded friend. Or "enough" to repair a breach between believers. So can we really say God is not "enough" to do those things as well? Can we limit the purpose of Grace to relieving regret, and to let us forget?

When Zacchaeus was welcomed by the man Jesus despite being shunned by his fellow villagers, did he ignore this shameful past and embrace a self-justifying theology? By all means no! He immediately swore to right the many wrongs in his life, despite this being "what is behind." And we usually fail to mention that immediately before Paul mentions "pressing on," he talked of his Christian-persecuting past. Apparently Paul had a different definition of "forgetting" than we do.

All to say this: we are not to dwell on our past, but neither can we ignore it. To pretend it never happened does a disservice to the grace that cleansed it. We are freed from our guilt-debt, but what of others that were hurt? Is there some way we can make right what was ruined? At the very least, we are freed from self-righteousness and free to share our past like Paul did, saying, "THIS is what my God is capable of saving. THIS is what my God can do."

(This was a dense post. It may become a sermon one day. But not today, because I am leaving for St. Louis in seven hours.)