Very few of us live where we were born or raised. It is a fact of our mobile society. Either our parents or we ourselves had to go where there was employment, or perhaps it was for our schooling. For some of us, we have had to move around a lot because of ministry. I have had 20 different homes so far in my brief life which means I have moved an average of every 2.35 years. But we never forget where we have come from.
I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia but was raised in the bedroom community of Sackville, just outside of Halifax. To this day I get teased about my Scotian accent even though I can't hear it.I miss it my home but I doubt I will ever get to live there again. I appreciate it and have fond memories and friendships from that place but I don't dwell there any more. It is good to remember where we come from; it helps keep us humble and centered. We need to do that spiritually as well.
Many of us in the Church today were saved from the road of destruction. Our condition was one rooted in sin and rebellion. Our activities were an offense to God. We would rather not remember where we came from but if we don't remember we run the risk of losing our appreciation of what Jesus has done for us. I am not talking about going back there or dwelling in that place but instead about not forgetting our roots, not forgetting what we were and not forgetting what Jesus rescued us from. The apostle Paul obviously never forgot as he wrote to Timothy:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)
Not forgetting where he came from allowed Paul to maintain an attitude of gratitude. It also reminded him that he did not get where he was by his own effort. Paul was thankful for the strength Jesus gave him as well as the fact that Jesus considered him faithful even though Paul did not. Quite often God declares over us what we know we do not deserve. He has declared us righteous even though we know we fall short. He has declared us faithful even though we know there are times that the opposite is true.
Paul was thankful that Jesus appointed him in service because Paul knew he did not deserve any of this. He knew and remembered and refused to cover it up, that he had been a blasphemer, persecutor of the Church and a violent man. Paul knew he deserved nothing but punishment and death which made Jesus' mercy and grace all that much sweeter. When someone does something as great as die to save you even though you were not worth dying for, it's hard to forget it. Jesus said that he who is forgiven much loves much and he who is forgiven little loves little. None of us only have a little to be forgiven so we should all be loving much, but we forget.
We forget and we start looking down our noses at people and their situations. We forget and we start becoming religious about things. We forget and we set aside mercy and grace for others. We forget just how much was done for us, where we came from and so we forget how to love. Paul said that he did what he did because the love of Christ compelled him. Remembering where he came from and what Jesus had done for him, the mercy and grace poured out in abundance upon him as a result of Jesus' love, kept that love fresh in him.
Paul did not dwell in his past. He did not allow his past to get in the way or diminish the power of Christ in him. He did not live with great regrets and remorse, refusing to live the life he was called into. Instead, he used the memories of his past to keep fresh his gratitude to Jesus for the abundance he had received. I think we would all profit from doing the same and taking some time today to thank our Lord for saving us from that road of destruction. In this way, when we are called upon to show this same mercy and grace from a heart of love, we will, and we will be thankful for it.