This is provocative. It’s a little bit stronger language than I would typically use because I want it to be a little provocative. A lot of people I know at a lot of the churches I have been at have a strong focus on trying to find a reason for their current behavior, emotion, attitude, perspective, etc in some past event or past relationship. It’s been happening for a few years in a few different communities of believers. Somewhere around 80% of my Jesus loving friends seem to be convinced that the past is a key to spiritual growth. Most of that group would say it is an absolute necessity. It’s not really talked about, it’s merely assumed that one has to deal with their childhood in order to be like Jesus today.
I don’t discuss the topic much with people. I seem to talk with them a lot about their past and how they’ve been affected by it, but I don’t talk about the underlying presupposition that focusing on one’s past is necessary or even helpful for growing in likeness to Jesus. I just listen to them talk. I don’t mind it. I don’t even mind the idea that the past is so central to transformation. I just don’t actually believe it. And it confuses me, because I don’t think it’s a central theme of Scripture. I don’t even think a very strong case can be made for it in Scripture. And its frustrating when people insist that I need to deal with my daddy issues, ask about sexual abuse, and tell me I have some deep seated issues that I need to start looking at to figure out where they come from.
Being soaked in an environment like this and being a pragmatist, I’ve tried to do these things that involve looking back at my past. I’ve tried to humor friends and family by trying to humbly engage in something I didn’t actually have much respect for. It didn’t really do anything. I thought more about some of the influences that have contributed to some of my habitual sins and areas of difficulty in following Jesus. But seeing influences doesn’t change actions. I never thought that my past is why I am the way I am and have struggled with sins I have. My sinfulness is not the fault of things that have happened to me or things that I was missing in my life as a child. It’s mine!
Maybe the lives of some people really are simply products of their pasts. It was inevitable that they would sin in area A or struggle in area C or be impatient in area Z, but not for me. I am not as good as those people. I have had a choice at every point of sin in my life. And I have chosen wrong. I really am that bad. I have absolutely nothing to attribute my mistakes to but my own dirty heart and my own foolish decisions. That’s it. When I sin it is only because I am proud and selfish, even though I wish I could attribute it to something else. However, taking responsibility for our own actions is essential to understanding the immensity of God’s love.
I do believe that thinking about and discussing some of the more formative relationships of the past can help people feel like they have a more cogent view of themselves. Although that’s somewhat useful in gaining a self perspective that feels like it fits, which I think is important. I look at my past, and while I know it has shaped me, I also see myself as a different person than the one that experienced what I experienced, than the one that did what I did. If I truly become a new creation through Jesus, then I am not the same. If Jesus has truly freed me, then my past experiences and my past person has no necessary effect on me. If the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives truly is all Scripture says it is, then figuring out our childhood or discovering reasons for our habitual relational interactions isn’t really necessary. What is necessary is that we humble ourselves, crucifying ourselves with Christ so that we no longer live but the Messiah lives in us. True life is not about getting over what is behind, but Jesus in us now as we strain to humbly live for all there is in front of us… thoughts?