Written by: Erik Raymond
In recent weeks, the removal of many controversial monuments has been a fixture in the news. As we know, these events have generated substantial conversation. Regardless of where you land on the decisions to remove these monuments and symbols, we can certainly agree that as a nation, we have chapters in our history that we are not proud of.
If this is true as a country, how much more is it to us individually? If we are honest, there are certainly times in your life that you are not proud of. Perhaps the thought of events, attitudes, decisions, or actions causes you to be uncomfortable. If we’re honest, we would be much more comfortable forgetting these things and certainly would be reluctant to building a monument to remind ourselves of them.
At least fundamentally, I can understand the impulse people have to remove the monuments and tokens of the past. We want to run the eraser across the whiteboard of our lives. This is why I find it helpful to read how the Bible reminds us not to forget our past. In fact, the biblical writers seem to make it their regular practice to remind us of who we were before conversion.
In Ephesians we read:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (Ephesians 2:1-3)
This is certainly not a flattering monument to our former self. But this is not all. Don't miss what it buttressed up against this.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God," (Ephesians 2:4-8)
He takes them down to bring them back up. The reminder of our rebellion serves as the black backdrop to properly esteem the sparkling diamond of grace. "We were dead...but God...made us alive."
Pivoting out of this text, he puts his arm around the church and lovingly instructs them. He commands to remember (Eph. 2:11-12). In other words, don't forget, keep revisiting this, don't let it escape your minds. Rather than tearing down the embarrassing monument, Paul is instructing them to revisit, remember, and consider it. They were unclean, alienated, strangers to God, and hopeless. But now in Christ Jesus they have been brought near, reconciled, and welcomed into God's family (Eph. 2:13ff).
I completely understand the impulse to not look at the bad days from the past. I think this reflex can bleed into our spiritual life. Do you tend to think upon what God has saved you from? Or, do you tend to gloss over it and simply think upon your new life in Christ? It may seem counterintuitive, but while at first undesirable, a trip down memory lane can actually serve us. It is something that we should do to help us value the privileged position being part of God's family. Frequently the news headlines help us think about our own lives. In this case, let's not tear down the monuments of our depravity but rather revisit them so we might better understand and esteem the monument of grace.