Remember No More | Connecting with Culture
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 was awarded to the British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.
His most recent novel, The Buried Giant (2015), is set in a semi-mythical Arthurian Britain. A mist is causing the whole population to lose their memories. One of the main characters, Beatrice, wonders whether the cause might be that God himself is forgetting things: ‘Perhaps God’s so deeply ashamed of us, of something we did, that he’s wishing himself to forget… When God won’t remember, it’s no wonder we’re unable to do so.’
Father Jonus, a monk, offers reassurance that forgetfulness is part of God’s character. As Christians have long celebrated, God remembers our sins no more. ‘Our god is a god of mercy. It’s no foolishness to seek forgiveness from such a god, however great the crime. Our god’s mercy is boundless.’
This truth, however, soon comes under fire: ‘What use is a god with boundless mercy? Your Christian god of mercy gives men license to pursue their greed, their lust for land and blood, knowing a few prayers and a little penance will bring forgiveness and blessing.’
Ishiguro has said that he was interested in exploring the idea of the ever-merciful Christian God, asking: ‘Has that idea made it easier for some Christian societies to rampage around the world throughout history, creating empires, invading other peoples’ territories… and so on?… It’s an interesting thought as to whether that would have been quite so easy had they not had this god who would forgive them anything.’
It’s an interesting thought for Christians especially, on a societal and a personal level. How can we celebrate God’s eternal forgiveness, without using it as an excuse for bad behaviour?
Paul, another writer with a penchant for difficult questions, ponders just this when he writes: ‘What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!’ (Romans 6:15). Instead, each time we come before God in confession and receive his forgiveness, we are to remember that it comes to us through a costly sacrifice – Christ’s death on the cross. The mercy we receive is not easy or cheap.
Nor is it given that we may go on sinning, but ‘that we should no longer be slaves to sin’ (Romans 6:6) and instead live in righteousness, grow in holiness, and receive eternal life (v22). Whatever else we may forget, let’s not forget this.
Rachel Smith works in marketing and communications for the higher education sector. She attends King’s Church Durham.