“So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 4:31-5:1).

Years ago we as a society were introduced to the many facets of “blame.” We correctly understood that every person is a composite of his or her experiences. Before that understanding, our response as a society to a person who endured unjust situations was this: “Suck it up!”

There are lots of ways to illustrate this attitude from the past. “So, you married an abusive man and have a horrible marriage. Suck it up and quit crying!” “So, years ago as a child, you had a mother who vented her rage on you. Suck it up and pretend it never happened!” “So, your parents do despicable things to you that make you feel more like a slave or property. Suck it up and stop whining!” “So, you have a boss who exploits his power over you. Suck it up—you have a job!” The prevailing attitude was, “So, you have (had) it tough! Big deal! So do (did) many other people!”

Gradually, we understood there are horrible experiences we endure that are neither ignored, forgotten, nor easily escaped. Gradually, we grasped the powerful impact of unjust relationships in people’s lives. Gradually, we understood that horribly unjust experiences often have a radical impact on a person’s behavior.

As usual, the pendulum tends to swing too far with new insights. Our society went from ignorance (and unjust conclusions) to blamelessness where nothing is “my” fault (and unjust conclusions). In our circuit, we returned to the same situation—from no responsibility due to an absence of insight to no responsibility because of insight. The result: we went from irresponsible conduct produced by ignorance to irresponsible conduct produced by a refusal to accept any fault. Both produce irresponsible conduct.

Facts to be accepted: (1) No one’s past is perfect. (2) No matter how hard we try, we cannot make things perfect for the next generation. (3) We live in an unjust physical world, and the next generation will live in a similar physical world.

Two things I can do: (1) I can be honest with myself concerning the impact of my past on me. (2) I can let Christ make me the best me I can be. If I am honest with myself about the impact of my past on me, I can encourage you in your transition. If I let God’s grace in Jesus’ death free me from my guilt, I can be an example to you as I challenge you to find hope in God.

If I ignore my past, I condemn myself to exist in a feeling of guilt. If I let God teach me freedom in Christ, I exist in forgiveness. In the first, I make others miserable—often including those I love the most. In the second, I bless others’ lives just by being the “me” God makes “me” in Christ. In spite of my past, I choose who I am. I can’t be perfect, but I can be better! Thank You, Lord, for freedom in Jesus Christ!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 13 March 2008

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