Does your past haunt you? Are you bitter even about America’s past?
This post updates the one at American Thinker with supplemental Q&A. Now updated Feb. 2, 2017.
Let’s get personal for a moment.
Do you remember when you messed up? When you got drunk and went too far? What about the flirtation that went too far? What about saying stupid stuff at the job or Thanksgiving? When you lost your temper? What about your bad behavior generally? What about that abortion? Shoplifting?
We all have regrets.
Now let’s get historical. Remember slavery? The trail of tears? Jim Crow laws? Japanese internment camps?
A nation can have regrets.
On BBC Newsnight, this Saturday, January 21, 2017, on PBS, KCET, the journalist brought up that recorded conversation again to British Prime Minister Theresa May and read the transcript word for word, without censoring anything. Then the journalist asked Ms. May how she can work with Mr. Trump. She replied that the remarks were unacceptable and assured the journalist that she can still work with the new president.
Finally, the people leading the recent marches around the country brought it up too.
(And for what it’s worth, I also had a judgmental attitude towards the president, but now I’m willing to move forward and trust he’s getting good advice from the Christian leaders with whom he’s in regular contact.)
You apologized for your past bad behavior, but someone still throws it up in your face. Reagan (and others) apologized for slavery and other national sins, but the past is still flung at the nation. Mr. Trump apologized for his bad behavior, but there it is again.
I’ve even heard a conservative radio talk show host crumple when the caller brought up slavery. Then the host quoted an American author who said something like the past is always present or some such ill-informed nonsense.
The fact is there are some accusers who will never let go of the past; they come across as bitter and angry. They will never be satisfied no matter how many times one apologizes. These unforgiving accusers are playing in the devil’s playground — your tainted past.
From my observations, the unrelenting accusers are invariably on the left.
We have tried to be understanding of the past. We have even felt guilty, as we allow the accusers to take us on a guilt trip. But historical and political reasoning can go only so far and will never convince the never-satisfied accusers. Apologies never quiet them down. Sometimes the fight is not rational; it’s spiritual.
So now it’s time to fight their endless demands with a little old fashioned theology.
Biblical theology says that God forgets your past. That may be difficult to believe, but there is in Scripture a doctrine called Judicial Forgetfulness. It is summed up in these words in the context of the New Covenant:
God is omniscient, so he doesn’t literally forget, but he expunges your past judicially; the past is gone, wiped clean. If you have repented of your past, God never throws it in your face again. If you still have regrets about it, you are not listening to Scripture. Instead, you wandered into the devil’s playground.
But what does this theology have to do with history and politics? Everything, because politics and history are abstractions. We are really talking about humans, you and me.
We need to have confidence the next time accusers bring up our nation’s past. One on one, we can tell the accuser that national leaders like Reagan have already apologized for national sins. Imposing guilt and a demand for an apology on individual citizens like you and me is unreasonable. Instead, we’ll study history, but we won’t be guilt-tripped by it anymore.
It is an historical fact that some of my ancestors owned slaves. So how do I deal with that? Though I trust they got their own hearts right with God, the gospel says I don’t need to pay for their sins. Christ did that already.
In your personal life, you can inform the accuser that you have repented of your own sins, and Scripture assures you that God has forgiven you and judicially forgets your past. In your own soul you understand that you no longer play in the devil’s playground. Now you have confidence in God’s love. Remind the accusers of the gospel of love and forgiveness.
Politicians don’t need to bring up this theology at every turn (or at all) because skeptical journalists would look at the politicians as if they were from another planet. Instead, they should have calm, quiet, inner confidence that the accusers are playing in the devil’s playground. But the politicians who are now aware of this doctrine don’t have to go there. They should simply answer that they personally have moved on, so next question.
But what if the accusers claim that the past is still impacting the present? The answer is always the same: the accusers need to move past the past and get injected with forgiveness and gratitude for a great nation today, two virtues that are the opposite of bitterness and unforgiveness. The answer is always that the good news of the gospel of Divine Judicial Forgetfulness — or simply the gospel of grace — releases all of us from the past. We no longer have to feel an ill-defined guilt that hovers over our head like a dark cloud.
As the old saying goes, the next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future doom and hell (Matthew 25:41).
Personally, leave the devil’s playground behind. Leave the past behind. Leave the regrets behind.
Politically and historically, always move forward and build a better future.
Let’s answer some quick questions.
Are you saying racism doesn’t exist today? Reply: It exists because humans are full of all sorts of vices, but it is great diminished. As noted above, the answer is to have the love of God in one’s heart, not guilt, repented of, about the past for sins you committed or bitterness about sins committed against you. And no one today should carry around guilt for sins that one did not commit, whether historical or present.
Isn’t this post racist and insensitive? Reply: This post is about guilt and shame from the past and how to be free of it, in your personal life and the nation’s life. It’s about the gospel of grace and liberty that liberates you–the questioner–from your own past. He who is without sin can throw the first stone.
What about penance? Reply, In Protestant theology, this practice is invalid because it smacks of earning God’s forgiveness by just enough contrition or doing good works. But the problem is–how does one measure “just enough” exactly? God’s grace and forgiveness is instant and final.
What about memorial and remembrance days? Reply: It is honorable and decent to remember the fallen and dead. This post is about imposing past sins on today’s generations who had nothing to do with those past sins. That’s unfair.
What about history months honoring past achievements? Reply: Honoring heroes is decent and honorable. This post is about forgetting past sins, not past heroic deeds.
What about reconciliation? Reply: If one or two offenders who hurt each other can reconcile, then so much the better. But soon the past will have to be left in the past and forgotten. It isn’t forgiveness or reconciliation to keep bringing up the past and manipulating people by it.
What about restitution on a small scale? Reply: If an ex-thief stole and the law demands restitution, then he will have to follow the law. But this does not mean God’s forgiveness is canceled or dependent on the restitution. His forgiveness is instant and permanent. Eventually, the ex-thief, now redeemed, will have to forget the past and move on.
What about national restitution? Reply: If this question alludes to sending checks to descendants of slaves, then national leaders must make the decision. My own opinion is that the logistics would be a nightmare. Plus, sending checks won’t solve the emotional issues. Historically, per the 1870 Census and deed records beyond then, many ex-slaves got more than forty acres and a mule. The ultimate answer has already been referenced above. Everyone needs to forget the past, let go of the bitterness and guilt, and build a better future in a great country that allows for a building this future.
What about recovering money or treasure stolen in the 1940s Nazi Germany and stashed in Swiss bank accounts? Reply: Follow the money trail. If the evidence is there, restore the money to the descendants. In this case, the paper trail is recent.
Bottom line: This post says that the gospel of liberty and grace frees people from their guilt and shame about the past and frees people from the bitterness and anger about the past. Forget the devil’s playground.