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In the United States, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May. It’s interesting to observe, on a Memorial Day in this country, how much of patriotism is a call to remember. As Christadelphians, we also know something of memorials, and remembering.

Before I go further, I have to add this thought. It’s well worth remembering the sacrifices so many men and women have made, over so many years, to insure the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Many made the ultimate sacrifice of which they were capable. There are similar observances in the countries of other folks who may read these words —Canada, England, Australia and elsewhere. (For example, the role of Memorial Day is filled in Canada by Victoria Day, which occurs either on May 24 or the last Monday before that date, placing it exactly one week before Memorial Day.) Even when we ask to be excused, on the grounds of enlightened conscience, from doing what those soldiers did out of their own sense of duty, we really should be grateful for what they willingly sacrificed, and the benefit we have reaped.

But there is a different side to the call to “Remember!”  While it may have served a useful purpose in times past, and may serve such a purpose even today, on a national level, it is the kind of remembering that is, on a personal and spiritual level, very misguided.

I am speaking of the battle cries, which still ring down the corridors of history in this country:

  1. “Remember the Alamo!” : this call energized the Texans fighting for independence fromMexico.
  2. “Remember the Maine!” : the battle cry of a small (but significant) war, the Spanish-American War in Cuba, that propelled Teddy Roosevelt to fame and high office.
  3. Nearer to our day, the Day of Infamy, and the marching cry of the “Big One”, World War II: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”
  4. And, of course, “Remember 9/11!”  No explanation needed.

Such remembering may inspire the soldier going into battle, and strengthen those going about their own supportive work on the home front. But at the same time it encourages, not so subtly, the cherishing of enmity, bitterness and even hatred toward other races of people and nations — because they are different, and on the wrong side of this or that conflict.

In this part of the country, there are plenty of people who cling to their memories (actually, by now their memories of their grandparents’ memories) of what they still call the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression (although others call it, simply, the Civil War). And they cherish a sort of nostalgic, golden-glow institutional memory of the 19th-century Old South, before the hated Yankees of Sherman and Grant turned the cities and plantations of Virginia and Georgia into ashes and rubble.

This is just the sort of thing in which, as believers in Christ, we should have no part.

Robert E. Lee was the General of all the Armies of the Confederacy in the American Civil War. It is reliably reported of him that, while other officers around him typically referred to the Union Army as “those damned Yankees” or “the enemy” (or other descriptions far more derogatory), General Lee unfailingly called the armies that opposed him on the field “those people”, “those folks”, or “the men over there”.

It’s something to think about.

Then there is, for us in the miniaturized (but nonetheless very real) world of Christadelphia, not just a personalized holding on to grudges and enmities, but a sort of organizational remembering (of anger first, giving way to mere bitterness as time passes, and at last to a sort of lingering, dismissive coldness). It is the memory by which an ecclesia, or a fellowship group, or a subgroup of believers, holds on to its own version of “the way things were”:

  • “Remember how that ecclesia treated Grandpa back in 1965. How can we ever trust them again?”
  • “Remember how that Fellowship harbored brother Q, who taught the error of _________ (fill in the blank). How can we ever share the Memorials with them?”
  • “Remember how they told our young people what they had to wear if they wanted to attend their CYC. Now where is that found in the Bible?”
  • “Remember how we would break bread with them, but they wouldn’t break bread with us. How can we ever get past that?”

Barbara’s family was from Scotland, and the family’s crest (or coat of arms) boasted as its motto: “Nunquam oblivisicar”.

“We never forget!”

But there are surely things that we can, and should, forget. It has been said that one of the best ways to have peace of mind is to cultivate a selective memory. Along with the love of God, and the perfect sacrifice of His Son, what else should we remember? What should we forget?

Remember others’

Forget others’

Good deeds

Foolishnesses

Wise words

Indiscretions

Small kindnesses

Hurtful comments

Words of encouragement

Supposed insults or slights

While some things are well worth remembering, other things should be forgotten. They should be forgiven too, insofar as it is in our power, and put behind us. But they definitely should not be wrapped up and preserved and filed away for future reference:

“When I became a man, I put away childish things” (1Cor13:11).

To cling to such matters, such seemingly small things, is childish. Even small things can weigh us down. If we pack them up and carry them along in our mental luggage wherever we go, they will only eventually wear us out, and then destroy us — if not physically, then spiritually.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2Cor5:17-20).

This is not a magic formula that will make everything right. Nor is it a “secret weapon” to solve all personal or ecclesial or fellowship problems with the snap of the fingers.

It is however part of the arsenal of the soldier of Christ, if not the worldly soldier. The same apostle who wrote of putting away childish things, and becoming a new creation, also said:

“Love keeps no record of wrongs” (1Cor 13:5).

Instead of ‘Remember the Alamo’, or ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’, or ‘Remember _______’ (Fill in the blank with your favorite old grudge) — how about “Semper oblivisicar”?

“We always forget!”

George Booker

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