How Far is the Past?
This morning I saw a church sign that got me to thinking. I don’t have the exact wording because I was completing an illegal u-turn at the moment but the gist of the sign was this;
GOD ISN’T WORRIED
ABOUT YOUR PAST
I’ve always asked questions. In fact, the reason some folks don’t know how many questions I ask it is because I keep many of them to myself, because there is just too.many. questions. This particular sign, coupled with the teaching that I had just done this weekend for Youth Camp, led me to ask this question; how far is the past.
You see, I have been in church my entire life. Outside of a period of about 6 months when I was 19 I have attended church on a weekly basis – multiple times a week. I have heard a lot of sermons. I won’t call myself on expert on anything, but I do have strong opinions on my ability to ascertain to which group a pastor is seeking to appeal or what group they are trying to convince their audience that they belong to. This being said, I have some observations about what we might mean when we say ‘past’.
Does our past mean what we did yesterday, last month, last year, a few decades back? What does this mean? Now I know that past means it is something that we’re not currently doing, but even then this is murky at best. I’m not currently procrastinating, but I’ve got to tell you that there is a tendency to slip back into habits that I would describe as being selfish and self-promoting at best. I wrote that final phrase in italics as a reminder that this is really one of the simplest definitions of sin: selfish and self-promoting.
Does our past mean something that others are not currently affected by? How do we define how long someone was/is affected? Does it rely on the offenders viewpoint or the one who was mistreated or harmed? There are realities that are quickly forgotten or absorbed and then there are realities in which the offense seems to grow as time continues.
Does this mean we have to agree on exactly what was damaging or the amount of damage caused in the past? Solomon tells us that longing for ‘good ole days’ is ridiculous because they never actually happened in the way that we remember them. Certainly this would apply to almost everything in the past. This is not to minimize harm or hurt that has been caused in the past but rather to realize that as we pass through time the way we view and acknowledge realities changes. It’s not just agreeing on what happened but also how it affected everyone going forward and their responses to other moments.
When he was writing Ephesians Paul wrote down the way that God views us. It’s not the way we view others and even on the best of days it is rarely the way we view ourselves, but it is the way that God views us.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them
There are four different translations there for you to read. In every one of these translations it becomes clear that this is present tense. Yes, the scripture goes on to describe what will be but never miss what we are; God’s masterpiece, His workmanship, God’s handiwork, his creative work.
Regardless of how you’ve ever been led to feel about your past I can assure you of one thing. You are God’s masterpiece. He is at work in your life. He is at work around you. He completely values you.
And yes, the church sign is correct;