Memory and Being Christian

A recent movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, examined the nature of love and memory and how, as the most recent memories that had destroyed their relationship disappeared, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), now having only the earlier, better memories, found he was once again in love with Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), who was also having her bad relational memories deleted. They get back together hoping this time it would work but still knowing that the first go around of their relationship failed and it will likely fail again.

Why do I bring this up, this examination of mini-reincarnation or what some might consider the modern technology version of an undo button. This movie is a bit like when you don’t want to keep your last move in Solitaire and you click the undo to try again, but differently. It is like having Groundhog Day(s) whenever you wanted them.

We have all fantasized about “do-overs” at one time or another. It usually starts with an “If only I had…” thought and goes on from there. Everyone does it, even Christians, who should know better. Considering the premise of this movie, and others like it, forces me to ask myself how is memory related to who I am in Christ as well as how is God’s sovereignty related to our memory.

Let me explain. Some Christians believe that God will wipe away all the sin, etc. from His memory and as a result will eventually remove the memory of sin from ours also, citing Jeremiah 31:34b. “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (e.g. Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12). While this interpretation is odds with other scriptures (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:10 and all the revelations of personal sin within the scriptures, which are God’s eternal Word ) and if you doubt people believe this type of thing, a simple search using memory and sin on Google will change your mind.

The first thing we need to deal with is that God is sovereign and doesn’t give “do overs” since what has happened is all part of the outworking of his eternal plan in the first place. Second, memory of our past sin is part of our defense against future sin. It helps us avoid the pitfalls that were previously enablers to our sin. The counter argument appears to be that in eternity we no longer need that assistance and eradication of the memory of sin would be a good thing. That leads us to my third point that memory of our sin and our subsequent repentance and reception of forgiveness is fundamental to who we are in Christ, to who we are as the persons we are. It is not an accident that Jesus appears in Revelation 5:6, 12 as the “Lamb slain”. It is the memory of our forgiven sin that identifies the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus and forever seals its significance in the history of salvation. So our memory, our remembrance of our forgiven sin is an integral part of our redeemed nature, for what is redemption without what we were redeemed from?

That said, some questions still remain. For example, the resurrected body of Jesus still bore the primary wounds (physical memory) of the crucifixion, but he was missing the complete disfigurement of the beatings and scourging he had endured. On the road to Emmaus Jesus talked with two disciples who never seemed to notice that he had been scourged and beaten. It is obvious that those depredations had disappeared. There is also no recognition of his having the pierced hands and feet that were evident to the disciples in the upper room. I am not sure how to interpret this selective physical memory in the body of our redeemed Lord and how that might relate to our own memories and the condition of our redeemed bodies. Scripture does not go there, at least not in any detail adequate to answer my question. I guess that is one more thing on the long list of “my things to get answered”. We all have our “God, why…” list. Patience William, patience. Remember the Tree and remember that some things will just have to wait…

  2 comments for “Memory and Being Christian

  1. Kyle
    August 9, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    Remember, also, that Jesus appeared to the disciples on the Emmaus road “in another form.”

  2. August 9, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    True, that passage in Mark explains their eyes being prevented from recognizing him in Luke. However, when he breaks bread they do recognize him, without it appears him changing, only their ability to see him. I think the point remains intact though, about the selective memory displayed on Jesus’ body.

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