Jump Start # 2276
Hebrews 8:12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
The governor of Virginia has been in recent trouble because of a decades old yearbook photo. He is trying to put some distance between the yearbook and the current times but the media and other politicians won’t let him. Last year, when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was going through Senate hearings for an appointment to the Supreme Court, his old yearbook came up.
Jump Starts does not try to get into the political arena, nor is it a current event medium, but one cannot help but see multiple layers of spiritual and Biblical lessons here.
First, people change. I do not remember what I wrote in yearbooks long ago. I’m not even sure where my old yearbooks are. What I wrote back in high school and college was most likely something dumb and certainly not what I would write today. Life and especially the Scriptures ought to mold us and change us into better people. We call this maturity. Paul told the Corinthians to “act like men.” Today, we’d say, “Grow up.” Most of us would not like to be defined by our high school or college years. Many of us were not very spiritual, bright nor thoughtful back then. Shallow, trying to be impressive and cute is about how most of us lived. And, for most of us, there are things that we’d rather nor remember.
Second, some people will not allow a person to change. They define you as they remember you. This is where the Virginia governor has found himself. Maybe he was racist at one time. That does not mean he has remained that way. People who first knew us when we were in the wilderness of sin may have a hard time seeing us today as being righteous. They may continually remind us of those dark periods in our lives.
This becomes a problem when a man wants to be appointed to lead God’s people as a shepherd. Rather than looking at what he is, some will remember him as he was. That person in the past isn’t the person today. Yet, some won’t let that go and they refuse to allow him to serve as a shepherd. Not only is this not right, nor the way God treats us, if the same standard were used for all of us, then we’d all be in trouble. We all have a past. That’s why we came to Jesus.
This is also hard when someone has hurt you and broken your trust. Do you forever punish them and keep them at a distance, or do you see them as they are today?
Third, from our passage today, God does not treat us like others do. Quoting from Jeremiah, this Hebrew passage shows us that God is gracious and forgiving. This is illustrated in the family setting of the prodigal in Luke 15. The sorrowful prodigal came home, broke, busted and empty. His loving father ran out to embrace, accept and forgive. The older brother refused to join in and refused to acknowledge his relationship with the prodigal. And, that’s exactly where the world is. Often, God forgives, but God’s people won’t. God restores and God’s people rejects. God embraces and God’s people shun. God runs toward the penitent sinner and God’s people runs from the sinner. God restores and God’s people want to put limitations, restrictions and keep the person under watch and at a distance. God treats us better than others, even God’s people.
We can learn from God. It was the father’s money that was wasted by the prodigal, not the brother’s. It was the father’s good name that was ruined, not the brother’s. It was the father who suffered the most, was hurt the most and lost the most, and yet it is the father who forgives the most.
Fourth, what a powerful reminder to all of us that our past has a way of coloring our future. Things we have said, written, posted, texted, tweeted can come back and haunt us years later. It’s hard to see in the future. How many things surface years later that are embarrassing, sinful, shameful and call upon us to do a lot of explaining and apologizing for. Inappropriate posts and pictures shared on social media can float around for decades. And, years later, your kids, your grandkids, or others can stumble across them and it distorts their image and impression of you. The things you have written and shared with others may keep you from a job one day. They may surface and hurt your marriage one day. They may keep you from serving in a way that you want. The word to us is to be careful. Even if no one ever calls your hand for these things, God may if you have not sought His mercy and forgiveness. Sins do not evaporate with time. Sins do not dissolve because we do not remember them. They are there. They are always there until we turn to the mercy of God.
Unfortunately for the Virginia governor, his present situation is like being surrounded by sharks. They won’t let up. They won’t forgive. They won’t forget. I expect just about everyone who is pointing a finger at the governor has a past that they are not proud of. We all do. That past can be our present, or we can change through the saving grace of Jesus Christ and His word.
Paul left his past behind and pressed onward.
I had a shop teacher back in sixth or seventh grade who signed a school book for me. I don’t remember his face, but for some reason I have always remembered what he wrote, three simple words: “Upward and onward.” I don’t know if he is even alive today and I expect if he was, he’d not remember me. But I have always remembered, “upward and onward.” The words you say, the words you write, the things you post on social media, decades from now, may be remembered by others. They may be words of life that folks have carried with them. They may be cruel things that have hurt others and the pain has never gone away. This is why parents, when angry, must be careful what they say to their children. Their words may scar the kids for a long time. This is why words of encouragement can make such a difference to someone’s life.
Makes a person wonder, doesn’t it?