Forget the Past

My undergraduate degree is in History, and one of the things we historians say is that history tends to repeat itself. This is (usually) because people don’t know their own history, so when the same types of events that caused one historical tragedy begin to coalesce once more, people can’t “read the warning signs” of the beginnings of another tragedy.

That’s a “world” view, meaning what we humans are taught. But God’s view is different.

God says to forget the past, and I think He has the better idea. After all, how can one look towards the future when you are always reviewing the past? I never liked the Jewish ….what do I call it? A celebration? a Holiday? I am thinking of Yom Hashoah, the remembrance of the Holocaust. It is a day where I have seen the Sanctuary of a synagogue covered in black and with pictures of the concentration camps. A day devoted to the past, with people reliving the horrors, they cry over things from half a century ago and their anger burns anew.

I don’t really want to remember the past because when we do we get mired in it. Yeshua said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back isn’t fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62) so if we want to grow in the Lord and do more for God, we need to forget the past.

Doesn’t God forget the past? You bet He does, and thank Him for that! He tells us that when we are forgiven our past sins are as far from us as the East is from the West; that although we are stained scarlet red, we will be washed clean as new snow; that He will blot out the memory of our sins and they will be no more. That’s what forgetting the past is all about.

Forgetting the past means we have to let it go. If you hold on to something old, you can only have one hand left for reaching out to grab something new.  I remember in the martial arts classes I took that when someone grabs you with both hands, like you always see in the movies, that means both their hands are unable to protect them, and both your hands are free to attack them. It’s like the story of the person in the water holding on to their heavy bag of valuables- they want to be saved but they are dragged down to their death because they won’t let go. What they are saving from their past is preventing them from having a future.

Whatever has happened to us in the past, happy or sad, we need to let it go in order to grow in the Spirit. Given a choice, I would prefer to hold on to the happy memories and forget the bad ones, but even happy memories can be a hidden trap. You can’t hold on to something and let it go at the same time, so anything and everything of the past, good and bad, must be released so we have both hands free to grab hold of the future.

This is a hard word to hear, and even harder to do. I am no further along than you are, believe me, and I wish I could just forget so many things. Actually, I do forget a lot of things, but they are recent and important, like the names of people I see when worshipping every Friday, what I was supposed to bring home from work, and to turn the alarm on at night. I DO remember Donna’s birthday, our wedding anniversary and when we had our first date. I may be forgetful, but I’m not suicidal!

The point of today’s Drash is that we need to remember to forget. Put the pain behind us, put the sadness behind us, and look to the future. I know people, one in particular, who can’t forget the past because she wants it to be different. Apologies never helped make her feel better, and “venting” didn’t vent out the anger; it only added oxygen to the fire. I truly believe that “getting it off our chest” is a lie from the pit of Sheol- when we relive the pain, the frustration and the anger all it does is re-open the wound. You can’t heal a cut by pulling at it- you cover it, and forget about it.

God tells us, over and over, to look to the future. He says when we return and ask forgiveness for the past, He will forgive and it will be no more. Not an event, not a memory, not even a faint recollection of something that once happened. It will be as if it never was. All the Prophets told of the upcoming judgements, and they always ended up with a promise of future reconcilement, a regathering of the people and the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth. The Bible is chock-full of God telling us to forget our past and concentrate on our future with Him.

There is no hope in the past, the present is over in a heartbeat, so the future is all that is left to us if we want to make things better. The world says to remember the past and memorialize that which has happened; God says to look to Him for a better future and to work towards the goal: as Shaul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24, we must run the race in such a way as to win the prize.

No one wins a race looking back.

Remember to Forget

Have you heard the one where two guys are talking about their ex-wives. The first one says, “My Ex isn’t too bad to me. She is still mad at me but she is getting over it.” The other guys says, “My Ex is the kind to forgive and forget- only she never lets me forget what she forgave!”

God forgives and forgets, and He tells us we should forgive, also. In fact, it is a commandment. Check out Mattitayu 6. After Yeshua gives us a template for prayer, He warns us that we are to forgive otherwise we won’t be forgiven.

Do as you would have others do means not just be a nice guy, but treat and consider the other people in your life, all the other people, as you would want them to do to you. That means don’t remember their sins that you have “forgiven” and move on with your life. And I am not talking about reminding them of what you’ve forgiven, as in the story above; what I am saying is that we all must really forget. We have to put it totally out of our mind.

I think God gave us scabs over our wounds to help us remember to forget. Ever peel off a scab too soon? It hurts, and then the wound starts to bleed, all over again. It’s the same way with sin and forgiveness- the sin hurts, we forgive (which forms a scab over the painful part) but if we keep picking at the scab, eventually it starts to bleed again and we have to try to heal all over. And if the wound is deep enough, and we keep working at it, we can not only take much longer to heal (if we ever do) but we may end up scaring ourselves in the process.

Sounds really stupid when you sit back and think about it, doesn’t it?

Forgiveness takes work; it doesn’t come naturally or easily. It requires humility, strength, and compassion. It is the Godly thing to do. Don’t you recall the old saying: To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine? Methinks there’s a lot more truth in that old Saw then we realize. God forgives our sins when we ask for forgiveness, Yeshua took on our sins to provide forgiveness that is now an everlasting forgiveness, and after all they did for us, the Father and Son simply ask that we do what they did, also.

There’s the parable about the man who owed a fortune and was forgiven the fortune, but then he didn’t forgive a measly sum he was owed. Do you remember what happened to him?

Leave the scab alone. Make an effort to forgive. I say this not because I am better at it than you are, but because I am no better at it! I still have some level of anger about things that happened to me from many, many years ago. The people who sinned against me are probably dead now, and when I think about what their final fate may be, it does make it easier to forgive them for what they did to me because what they will be going through for eternity is so much less than what they did to me, and so much worse than anything imaginable. How can I still have any animosity against them? I can only feel pity for them. Even if it is a deserved torture, it is torture and I don’t think anyone who professes to love God and follow Yeshua can see another living creature suffer and not feel compassion for it.

I don’t believe I can have the Ruach HaKodesh inside me but not feel pity and remorse at knowing about the suffering of another. It just doesn’t seem possible. I know that we will always have the poor, and that suffering is natural in a cursed world. I also probably won’t do a whole lot about most of it. But I still should feel that remorse and pity, otherwise I need to ask myself if I really have accepted Yeshua, if I really have the Ruach HaKodesh inside me, and if I really have done T’Shuvah.

In the criminal justice system, to prove a person is guilty of a crime you need three things: a motive, a means (to commit the crime), and the opportunity.

Salvation is our motive, Yeshua is the means by which we can receive salvation, and God will constantly provide us the opportunity to show we have done T’Shuvah. We live in a sinful and corrupted world, so there will always be someone more than willing to sin against us. There’s the opportunity for you- that’s where you can do what is Godly and right, that’s where you can please the Lord, and that’s where you can show your holiness by forgiving. That’s where you can obey the commandment.

All we need to remember is to forget.