We appreciate leaders with foresight and vision, whether politicians or church leaders. But we forget the value of hindsight. Some want to forget the past because it is painful or embarrassing. Some people think the past has no value at all. But God gave us a memory for good reasons, and it involves hindsight. If we gain some wisdom from the past, it’s going to help us with the future.
The bewildering stories of the Old Testament kings of Israel reveal radical flip-flops of policy and religion from father to son. After all of king Hezekiah’s positive reforms, his son Manasseh took the throne and did the complete opposite, rebuilding the idolatrous shrines his father had destroyed (2 Kings 21). His grandson Josiah took his turn and destroyed the idols and led the country back to God. Manasseh forgot the national blessings of faithfulness and Josiah remembered the past consequences of idolatry.
When Stephen addressed the Jewish council in Acts 7:51-53, he pointed out their failure to remember what happened to their forebearers. “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” The apostle Paul had hindsight, never forgetting the harm he once did to the church and God’s graciousness to forgive him. It taught the world the power of the gospel in a man’s life, that even the worst can be saved.
We need hindsight because our past mistakes teach us what won’t work in the future, and what will. It helps us steer our lives with more wisdom. Humility is maintained when we remember our humble beginnings, granting us compassion for others. Like Paul, remembering the grace of God in saving our ruined souls helps us to never forget our work today – reaching out to the lost. Strive to develop foresight, but know the value of hindsight.
What is it you need to remember? What is it you need to forget?
– Tim Johnson