Lamenting the Past to Heal the Present

 In Featured, Pastor Jeff's Blog

Our parents sinned and are no more, and now we’re paying for the wrongs they did. – Lamentations 5:7

It is human nature to resist pain. We repress negative emotions. We avoid conflict. We medicate discomfort. This is our natural inclination, which is why I found the German attitude toward the Holocaust so extraordinary. Rather than avoid this incredibly painful chapter of their national history, the German people embrace it. They intentionally foster a corporate consciousness around the Holocaust, generation to generation.

The brass plaques in the picture above bear the names of Jews who were forced from their homes and sent to concentration camps. They can be found in the cobbled streets in front of houses throughout the country. They are placed there not just to memorialize the dead, but to remind the living of their own history.

It would be so easy for the German people to dismiss the Holocaust as another generation’s sin, but they have discovered the truth that our broken history can only be healed when we fully embrace it. That is true both individually and corporately.

The Israelites understood that they suffered for the sins of those who lived before them, and they embraced that history and lamented it. It was an important step in their healing and ability to move forward.

Racial tensions have existed in America since its founding, and we continue to resist our broken past, dismissing it as another generation’s sin. But the truth is, our current racial tensions have roots in our broken past. Our treatment of Native Americans as aliens in their own land, our enslavement of blacks, our internment of Japanese Americans – these and many other painful chapters in our national history may never heal until we stop blaming them on another generation or resisting them. Only what is embraced and surrendered to God heals. We cannot move forward until we embrace and lament our past.

In her excellent book Be the Bridge Latasha Morrison put it this way,

Historical truths play an important role in our understanding of how we arrived in our current racial tension. Without looking back, without understanding the truth of our history, it’s difficult to move forward in healthy ways. And even though it might be painful to recount our history as a country, denying it leads us nowhere. Truth is the foundation of awareness, and awareness is the first step in the process of reconciliation. Jesus said as much, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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