Jump Start # 2615
1 Corinthians 10:11 “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
I saw recently that the classic movie, Gone with the wind, was being shelved because of the racial discrimination and overtones that are featured. The movie offends some people. And whether it is right to now ban that movie or not, I’ll leave that for others to discuss and kick around and decide. It does however present a much larger thought that bridges with the Bible. And, that subject is what to do with a tainted past?
Our verse today, found in the New Testament, discusses Israel’s choices from the Old Testament. It wasn’t a pretty picture. They shamed God, violated His law and suffered the consequences. They craved evil things. They were immoral. They were idolaters. Students of the Bible know the period of the kings was a long and dark departure from God. Many bad examples are found there. Even among our heroes of the Bible, we find dark moments of sin. Noah got drunk. Abraham lied. David committed adultery. Hezekiah lost it at the end. Why keep those things before us? Why not remove them? Why not clean the Bible up so the people look better? Why these reminders of failures? Why present leaders with clay feet?
Here is what we ought to keep before us:
First, our past isn’t pretty. That’s true of the planet. That’s true of this nation. And, that’s true of us personally. We all have a story and our story involves sin. We have done things that today we are ashamed of and regret. We have said things that should never have been said. We have mistreated people, broken promises and hurt the hearts of others. Fact is, we have offended others by our bad behavior. That’s us. That’s our story. Now, we can pretend that none of that ever happened, but it did. We can wash that out of our memories, but it doesn’t change the fact.
Had the story of David been perfect, we might wonder why Jesus ever came. Had Elijah never hid in the cave, we might not understand what James meant by saying he had a nature like ours. We are not always on the mountain top. Had Abraham not been seen lying, the father of faith, we might feel like we have no hope. We know that we mess up. We know that we fall short. But having perfection all around us, would not encourage us, but rather, it would make us feel more like failures. Noah wasn’t perfect. Job had questions. Abraham was afraid. Peter talked too much. And, with that, I can see myself. I can learn from them. Their mistakes help me from making my mistakes.
Second, a clear picture of our past helps us remember where we came from and how far we have traveled with the Lord. This is my concern about rewriting our nation’s history. There was racism and prejudice. If we eliminate those histories, the next generation may believe that we have never had problems. We have always gotten along. Relationships are a journey. Mistakes are made. Improvements and adjustments and repentance is part of the learning process. Dumping the past doesn’t mean it never happened. Out of sight and out of mind doesn’t work much in these areas. So, when it comes to the Bible, we find some of the first churches had problems. The death of the first Christians wasn’t through persecution. It was God striking down two liars. We see some that were neglected. We see some inner fighting going on. We see some tolerating wrong. We see pride driving some away. Division. Lawsuits. Apostasy. The picture of the first congregations is not pretty. Then you get to Revelation and you find a dead church, a lukewarm church, and a church that left it’s first love. Why does God show us these sad, sad pictures. I’ve often wondered, if I had the choice of any N.T. congregation to be a member at, which one? It’s not a simple answer. Those churches were on a journey. Now, when I look at the congregation I am with, I find that we too are on a journey. There are some days that we step on each other’s hearts. There are some days that we are not at our best. Can we do better? Is there hope? Look at what God has shown us. Look before us.
Third, our past reminds us that we can change. We can do better. Through the love and grace of God there is hope. We don’t stay sinful. We don’t hold on to prejudices. We are molded by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can forgive. We can be kind. We can be helpful servants. Peter told his readers that if they fail to add the virtues of character, they have forgotten their purification from sin. They forgot where they came from. They forgot the promise they made to God. They forgot what it felt like to be lost. They forgot how great it was to learn of the hope that is found in Christ. The past pushed them forward. Our past isn’t honoring wrong, but it’s a reminder of what we have left and now what we have become. We are not the same people as we once were.
Paul uses the past, in our verse today, to remind the Corinthians that you can learn and do better. Denying the past can be as dangerous and wrong as remaining unchanged from the past. Pretending we never made mistakes won’t help our children. They can’t live up to perfection and neither could we. Our choices, our struggles, our mistakes have helped us move closer to Christ. We can’t do it on our own. We made a real mess of things on our own. We need forgiveness. We need to think better. We need to do better. This is the past, with all of it’s warts and wrinkles, it’s mistakes and failures, it’s sins, is necessary.
What better words to describe this than: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”