Be Careful with the Past
The faith of our fathers is a precious legacy. To know the origin of one’s people, their lives and deeds, and their faith is a rare gift and a solemn responsibility. Past generations were more concerned with honoring their fathers than we are. They appreciated God’s progressive working through generations. They thought more in terms of covenant – faith in Christ, loving obedience to him, and eventual blessing.
Men today hate the past, for it condemns their present. The faith of our fathers exposes present social revolutions as nothing but pouting children demanding to get their way. These crusaders are juvenile but dangerous. Moral absolutes, historical truth-telling, and present truth-living are ridiculed and sometimes criminalized. All who refuse to submit to the frenzied social justice warriors receive kangaroo court justice meted out by these children.
Some Christian leaders are quick to jump on the vilification bandwagon. Fearing men, they apologize for supposed crimes they did not actually commit and do not understand. It is safer to march in the rearguard of the revolutionaries than to confront them with historical and divine truth. But if we lie or misrepresent the past in order to preserve some little space for a very watered down truth, we have gained nothing and have not given the gospel’s full challenge – to live by every word of God, not by its snippets and crumbs. Revolutionaries, moreover, care little for apologies; they want the Christian faith to die, and along with it personal responsibility and every form of “NO.”
There is a reason that this nation has enjoyed three centuries of general prosperity and relative peace within in our borders. It is the Christian faith of the men and women who came here to worship God and order their lives by his Word. God blessed them and their children. Our fathers and mothers were sinners, and we should not be surprised that they said and did things in their time that we now question or reject altogether. They were children of their age, as we are. But as the boy grown up gains perspective and respect for his father, so we would for those who have gone before us, if we would enter into their struggles and listen to their wisdom. This does not require us to embrace all they did and said, but many lived with an open Bible before the face of God.
We should start here. A prosperous and peaceful civilization requires inhabitants that fear God and keep his commandments. National prosperity is the fruit of national confession and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the nations. Reject his reign, as Europe did, and you will suffer for your treacheries against him. Our demise, real and exaggerated, has the same root cause. It is not because we do not have enough laws, tolerance, and tax revenue. It is not because we have many races living in our midst, for we lost our national faith before they moved in. Our demise is our rebellion against the Lord of glory. There is no remedy but national repentance.
It would require more time and energy than most possess and fewer are willing to give to relearn the rich history of our ancestors. The revolutionaries will never learn it, for it condemns them. Their frenzy will be short-lived and futile. They will never find the personal utopia and safe spaces they seek by embracing perversity and diversity, screaming down truth-tellers, and spending everyone else’s money to pay for their fantasies. They are dancing with the devil, and he eventually kills his partners.
Let those who honor their parents and respect the past not be paralyzed by it. No epoch of history can be freeze-framed for duplication. We must learn about God’s great works, pass them down, and add to them through faithfulness. As for those who have gone before us, “their place remembers them no more” (Ps. 103:16). They served the Lord in their generation, and then slept with their fathers. The same will be true of us.
We do not get to choose our particular times and places to stand. God places us there. Past Christian men and women, the great and heralded, the simple and unknown, determined to honor the Lord and serve him to the best of their ability. They made mistakes, as we shall. In common with them, we must resolve to please the Lord. When heart and life seek his glory, we can safely leave the results to him.
For be sure that you will sleep with your fathers and behold the face of Jesus Christ. Your place on earth will be taken by another. Your place, where you lived and loved, will remember you no more. What will linger is whether you served the Lord in your day. Our days are different from our fathers. We face different challenges and receive a different measure of grace and light. God does not judge us by what our fathers did. He does not hold us accountable for their sins.
He calls each of us to serve him faithfully, first, in our homes. Parents must know something of God’s great works so that they can communicate to their children that we do not live in a historical vacuum. Each Christian family must know biblical history and at least the general outlines and faithful fathers who came before and led to us. The revolutionaries are rootless; we have roots, deep and glorious roots. Knowing and honoring them will give our children a sense of identity and purpose. It will anchor them in God’s great historical work of gathering all things under his Son’s headship.
Then, be aware that Satan hates history. He wants all men to live in a rootless present. It is easier to pick off souls that are unaware of the past and live for present appetites. His malice stokes the fire of the present revolution. If you want to thwart him, souls must be rescued. Families, nations, and civilizations are composed of men and women. If they walk in the light of Christ’s cross and crown, all will be well. For every ounce of energy you spend vilifying the wicked, spend two praying for the salvation of your neighbor and building a relationship with him.
One of the interesting advantages of our times is that men do not know whom to trust. Show them that they can trust you: to love them, be there for them, and speak truth humbly to them. Christian history and the kingdom of God progresses slowly, one soul at a time. Commit to this great work of God, and you will find your heart lighter and your hope kindled. Nothing is more satisfying to the disciple of Christ than to work hand in hand with the Lord making disciples.
Guard your heart against anger and bitterness. Here we have no continuing city. Sometimes the Lord burns down the city of our fathers. He may have something better in mind or intends to chasten us. Perhaps he simply wants to teach us the most challenging truth of his kingdom: to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. Love, not anger, will prevail over the devil. He does not understand this. He would consume everyone with his hate. Overcome evil with good, and he is thwarted. This is the way our Father treats his enemies. He treated us this way when he gave us his Son. Love and mercy triumph over hate and sin. Bear the cross, and you will love, and men will know who you are (John 13:35).
Sin and revolution against God are very disturbing to the soul. The roaring inferno of hate is deafening. It is strange that in a house afire are found cheerful, loving men trying to save others from the fire. This is who we are. It is the way the Scripture’s speak of us – saving men from the burning fire of rebellion. And yes, the fire is burning down much good for which our fathers and mothers labored. The Lord is able to rebuild it, if he chooses, but when the fires are raging, forgive your enemies, resist them with truth, and love them. Reach out your hand to a burning soul and lead him by word and example to the Living Waters. Jesus alone can put out these fires and establish truth and righteousness in our land.