We are continuing our Side By Side series through the book of Philippians. Paul gives us a way forward as we press on to know Christ: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead. As I preached on Phil 3 this past weekend, I didn’t have the time and space to talk about the different kinds of forgetting involved. I mentioned that we must forget both the bad things we think keep us from the love of God and the good things we think make us deserving of the love of God.
No, God’s kindness and mercy to us is completely unmerited. No one’s life is so bad that God cannot forgive and save, and no one’s life is so good that God’s forgiveness and saving is unnecessary. So don’t forget to forget what is behind.
But my title is a double entendre – we don’t forget just to forget. Such a life would be incredibly escapist and in many ways immature. Reflection on the past is an important part of maturity and self-awareness. How many of us know people who refuse to deal with the past and so repeat its mistakes? Generationally? Brene Brown says that the phrase, “Live with no regrets,” is actually a sign of great unhealth because it demonstrates the unwillingness to face our own brokenness. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done things we are not proud of. We forget those things in pursuing Christ, but we don’t forget those things just to forget them.
How do we make sense of this? Let me offer a simple way forward. We must forget the past when we are tempted to define our identity by it, but we must reflect on the past in order to understand who we are. Another way to say it is this: the past may explain me, but it does not define me. My relationships, my childhood, my heritage explains the way I think and respond to life, but it does not DEFINE who I am. This is the hope for the believer who comes from a dysfunctional home. This is the hope for the addict who has been transformed by Christ.
I look back on my past and understand how God has used the people and situations in my life to shape me, but I forget the past when it claims to define me today. Christ’s death on the cross for my past, present, and future defines me. I am the beloved, and his tender, pursuing, passionate mercy on my life is something I will never forget. I hope you won’t either.
Pray for Grace Community Church as we gather the church Thurs 11/10 to process what is going on in our nation together. I’m sure there will be hard conversations and discomfort, but I feel that it’s an important way to move forward and “forget what is behind” while straining towards what is ahead corporately. I am asking God to begin lots of conversations and open hearts as a result.