We paused and remembered on Sunday. We remembered those who had died in the service of our country.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.
In an era of peace, at least from war, it’s important to remember. We should remember and we should learn.
Alongside ‘we will remember’ another poignant phrase is ‘never forget’. Never forget those who served. Never forget what they had to go through. Never forget the horrors of war so we don’t repeat them.
I’d like to think that would be enough, that as a race we would observe tragedies of old and decide we won’t let them happen again but I’m not so sure that will do it.
I’m reading through the book of Jeremiah at the moment. It’s not the most cheery book. God’s people are in a mess because they’ve stopped following him like many times before. They have a choice to turn back but their hearts are hard. They know what they should do, they know the old stories.
I had a chat last week with the guy who stands outside my workplace every Friday selling Socialist Worker. I told him the other week that I’d buy a copy if he’d take a copy of a little booklet called ‘Why Jesus?’ I tried comparing notes but he was adamant in his atheism. I offered my perspective that while I believe class is real and a very real problem* it’s not the fundamental problem. In my view, the fundamental problem is not a class of people but people in general. You can replace one ruling class with a new one and they’ll be as bad in their own way as the Soviet Union demonstrated.
We’d like to think we’re learning and we’re getting better but a quick look around shows we still have a way to go.
Modern politics is becoming increasingly defined by populism and nationalism. The likes of Trump and Farage operate through a prism of us and them – quick to demonise the ‘other’ and to spread fear and disinformation. Brexit is leaving us polarised and bewildered as we try to square the circle of how to leave the EU and at the same time function effectively in a globalised world.
We’d like to think that everyone will learn and pursue a world of peaceful co-operation but self-interest soon steps in.
How do we stop this cycle repeating?
Psalm 24 asks ‘who may ascend the hill of the Lord, who may stand in his holy place?’ It answers the question by saying it is those who have clean hands and a pure heart.
I think we need to be honest that remembering what’s gone before, whilst important, is not enough. Our well intentioned rationality does not change our hearts. Our good intentions are often just that. We will keep repeating the same mistakes in different guises if we are not changed as people and as a society.
Real change for me happens one person at a time. That’s not to deny the need for us to function collectively and Remembrance Sunday shows the power that can have. But to have lasting change we each need to be willing to deal with our own mess.
Going back to the idea of having clean hands and a pure heart, we need to see that life dirties us and we need to get cleaned up. We cannot in honesty, pretend we’re not a part of the world’s thought pollution and the judgement, gossip and cruelty that contribute to it. The offer of Jesus is a new heart, a renewed mind and his ongoing presence to mould a better us day by day.
Baptism is a powerful symbol of this. My church is both Anglican and Baptist, which means that as well as sprinkling a few babies we also have a tank so we can dunk the adults. It’s a powerful sign of people choosing for the old to be washed away and replaced by a new life – the Bible talks of this as us becoming new creations**.
So yes we should remember but if we want to avoid repeating the past we need to do something different with our future.
*The most wealthy 1% of the nation own 20% of its wealth
**2 Corinthians 5:17
This article first appeared on www.christiantoday.com