Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Danger of Glorifying the Past

The good old days - playing with guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Jaskowiak (thanks Julie!)

One thing that can destroy community and fill it with guilt and condemnation is misrepresenting the past by inflating it. Over the years I have met Christians who, rather than serving and ministering with God’s love and power in the now, critique the church by pointing to the past as glory days that need to be recreated. The further one gets from those "good old days," the better they look.

But, truthfully, the "good old days" had their problems too. 19th-century Dutch historian Johan Huizinga said “there is not a more dangerous tendency in history than that of representing the past as if it were a rational whole and dictated by clearly defined interest.”[1]

In the glorification of the past, the past gets distorted. People who enshrine and worship their history live illusory lives rooted in falsehood.

As for me, I find myself rarely (if ever) wanting to go back to the past. It's true that I have good memories. I sometimes think of Linda and I, living in East Lansing, with our two little boys. We did not have a lot of money (that was hard). We did have one another (that was good). Sometimes I think of those days, but I never want to go back and do them again. My desire is not to recapitulate the past.

My heart aligns with the apostle Paul's view, which is: one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.[2] 

Moving forward and finishing well - that's what I am praying for. Pressing forward, not backwards. With this viewpoint I am freed from the guilt-producing tyranny of an often-distorted past, and released to love God and move with His Spirit now, today.

The Word does not say "Yesterday was the day that the Lord had made," but...

"This, today, is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

[1] Quoted by Thomas Merton. A Year with Thomas Merton, Kindle Locations 2389-2390
[2] Philippians 3:13-14