Way back when
A lot of people have the tendency to look back at the good old days with great affection; the weather seemed better in the good old days, life seemed simpler in the good old days, we sung better songs in the church in the good old days, whatever it was, the greater the distance between today and yesterday the better those days seemed to be.
Here in New Zealand the recent terror attacks in Christchurch that claimed the lives of 50 innocent people have changed the way a lot of people look at the land of the long white cloud. News headlines repeatedly tell us that as a country we’ve ‘lost our innocence’ and that our pride in being a safe haven from the trials and tribulations of the world that we’ve only seen through the eyes of the media has been shattered. There’s a perception that the good old days have been lost to the annals of history, and a new reality is evolving.
Israel looked back
In the Bible we see the nation of Israel looking back retrospectively at their good old days. When carried away into the Babylonian exile we see the psalmist writing in Psalm Chapter 137, Verse 1, that they [we] sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept when they remembered Zion; when they remembered the good old days. Similarly, Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem and in Joshua Chapter 24 we see him reminding the nation of the good old days, describing a long line of events where God’s leading and blessing was with them.
This same theme can be found in Nehemiah Chapter 9 where Nehemiah reminds the returned exiles to remember the past, the days where God protected and delivered them from exile and from hardship; the days where God had not abandoned them even when they struggled to be faithful to Him.
Let history be our teacher
There’s a saying that we should let history be our teacher; that it’s looking back and learning from history where we can allow ourselves to be prepared for whatever is about to come next. In a time where history is often limited to what happened yesterday or last week, we could learn a lot from the ancients and their experiences.
As a New Zealander, the recent events that have scarred our nation are not the loss of our innocence, nor has our pride in our isolation been lost. Quite the contrary, our history has just been exposed in a form we haven’t experienced before. Our history is marked with the oppression of our indigenous people. Our innocence was lost when the colonisation of my ancestors dealt a cruel hand to those who’s land we took, to the people whose rhythm and lifestyle we shattered.
We can’t look back at the good old days with a great deal of affection unless we own our history and seek to learn from it, and that comes with ownership and repentance.
New Zealand has a chequered history when it comes to the acceptance of diversity and the embracing of the other, whether that be racial or religious. I hope that recent events might inform our empathy towards past events so that we might learn from them and not allow new walls to be built between people of every creed and race (as our National Anthem recognises that this is Aotearoa).
Let’s learn to move forwards
Applying the lessons of history is the hard part because it takes courage and commitment to own hurt and to seek to being reconciliation and healing. The psalmists, Joshua, Nehemiah, and others, all spoke of the past to that the present and future might be altered, so their people might see God’s hand upon them and want to be faithful to Him who continued to lead them.
As a leader of a faith community I’m going to do all that I can to ensure that today will be good old days; that we’ll allow God’s Spirit to blow afresh on us so that our attitudes and actions reflect what God has sought to teach us throughout history up to this point.
The good old days are just around the corner, might our learning from today and the past shine change by God’s grace into the heart of our communities so that our tomorrow is as blessed as our yesterdays. Who’s with me?
Grant Harris is a reformed banker who has been the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, for ten years. Grant’s passionate about the seeing the greatest miracle the world could ever see come about – love, for one-another, in the church, so that the Body of Christ is the light of the world. He dreams of the revival that could eventuate when that happens. You can contact Grant at email@example.com.