In 1861 Robert E. Lee wrote, “With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.” In the end, he simply couldn’t raise his sword against his home state of Virginia, even though President Lincoln had offered him the command of the whole US army to put down secession. General Lee decided to resign from the US army and take up command of the armies of Virginia. As an aside it was said that before the War between the States, people said “The United States ARE” and after the War between the States they began to say “The United States IS”
Of course, there is nothing as contentious as a discussion about a war within a country and between brothers, but to ignore or hide from history has shown to be a very foolish mistake for any society. If we forget who we were, we will likely never become who we really are.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 10:32-38:
Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. “For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith.”
St. Paul wants these Hebrew Christians who are considering abandoning Christianity because of persecution to remember where they are from, remember their past. These Jewish converts to Christ needed to spend some time recalling the past times when the temptation to abandon the hard path of following God cost them dearly. But that’s true of our own lives as well. We cannot forget the times we stubbornly refused wisdom and the consequences of those foolish choices or we will be doomed to repeat these errors.
But, let’s be honest, recalling my mistakes isn’t really “fun.” In fact, unless we recall in light of forgiveness and mercy, our memories will do little more than depress us and condemn us. And that is NEVER God’s intention.
No, the purpose of recalling my stumbles is to then run to the mercy of God and offer these stumbles to God in repentance. But then we have to constantly struggle against the misunderstanding of repentance. Too many people still think repentance entails being sorry for breaking a rule. And that just feeds the escape from dealing with bad choices and wrong directions in my life. It feeds the fear of “feeling bad” about my mistakes and trying to avoid being “depressed” by “negative thoughts.” And I understand that completely. But what if repentance is more about changing your mind SO THAT you can change the direction you walk in life? What if this is more about an honest inventory of my choices, good, bad, and everything in between, with a sure knowledge that the Father will NEVER reject me. He will take my honesty about myself and my choices and turn them into insight and wisdom about the deepest places in my life that need His healing and grace.
And that will, in turn, lead me to the growing maturity of discernment and wisdom SO THAT I won’t keep tripping over the same sins that enslave me to my passions! I don’t know about you, but that sounds very appealing!
So, Today, are you able to look at your past mistakes in light of the loving grace of the God Who will never reject you? Or are you trapped in the fear that past mistakes haunt you with shame? It’s time to embrace a Purposeful Orthodoxy that sets you free to recall your past with the joy of loving forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers you right now!
P.S. Dear Lord, it is a blessing for me to remember without shame or longing, my former self before I followed You. Now I am invited to remember my former self in the Light of Your forgiveness and mercy. And living in this freedom, I am now able to offer Your Good News to those around me who are still trapped by their past mistakes and sins. My old life no longer enslaves me to guilt and shame because You have forgiven me and now Your Spirit refashions the ancient beauty of my soul. Thank you, O Lord. Amen.