by J. Randal Matheny, editor
“History is bunk,” said Henry Ford. At the other end of the opinion scale, poet and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
So which is it?
Memory is essential to individuals and nations. It was good for Henry Ford to be forward-looking, but no one can ignore the past.
So it is fitting that countries like the United States celebrate a day to remember those who have given their efforts and, for many, their lives to preserve the freedoms and values recognized by the Constitution.
In our family, my dad served in a MASH unit during the Korean War. Most families have members in the armed forces. Some have photos on the mantle of sons who never came back. We’re grateful for their sacrifices.
Christians, too, have a history to which they must look for their meaning and existence.
Three passages, among others, mention the important act of remembering.
#1. The Holy Spirit Reminder of Jesus’ Words
“I have spoken these things while staying with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:25-26 NET).
Youth does not bother to remember, since the future consumes its thoughts. Age can’t remember, because the past becomes foggy. Human memory is faulty.
After Jesus ascended to the Father’s side, he sent the Holy Spirit who caused the apostles to remember the Lord’s words. Our spiritual history is preserved with exactness and accuracy because the Spirit made fallible men to recall precisely what was said. What a cause such certainty gives us for celebration!
#2. The Written Reminder of Jesus’ Commands
“Dear friends, this is already the second letter I have written you, in which I am trying to stir up your pure mind by way of reminder: I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, understand this: In the last days blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
A whole industry has grown up to remind us of appointments or important things to do. Spiritually, that “industry” is the writings of the apostles and prophets. As Peter is wont, he describes the whole Christian system by the term “commandment,” considering it an apt synedoche for the entire faith. This writing was made necessary, in part, by the threat of false teachers who changed the gospel in order to give vent to their uncontrolled passions.
Peter’s reminder is as apt today as it was when he wrote it. Many want to jettison the commandment of Christ and let grace be the cloak for their unrighteousness.
#3. Remember Jesus Christ
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
We might find it ironic that a missionary writes to a minister and reminds him not to forget Jesus Christ. Not so ironic, considering the temptation to lose oneself in discussions, issues and hot buttons among the brethren. The message is the Christ. Gospel is not only content, but activity. It encompasses not only the truth but the truth’s proclamation. It means assuming the hardship that comes with preaching. Avoiding that hardship means forgetting Jesus Christ.
Just as today many think that hamburgers and hot dogs sum up Memorial Day, others think the kingdom of God is eat and drink. Those who know the true price of freedom, however, will remember that Jesus Christ came to save sinners.
This true saying is worth remembering.
by J. Randal Matheny, editor