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02.11.2017

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
Rachel Smith works in marketing and communications for the higher education sector. She attends King’s Church Durham.

Comments

  1. This is, surely, where James’ angle comes in. If the the ‘good works’ do not flow from the faith we claim, then maybe the faith is dead. [Ja 2:14-26] A transformed life and transformed living is the outworking of regeneration. If greed, lust and blood persist, then there is a difficulty. You can tell a tree by its fruit, Jesus said.

    By Mike Wells - 3rd November 2017
  2. Thanks Rachel very thought provoking
    I think your view of your own sin is very important – it reminds me of my weakness and my inability to do anything without the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit

    This utter reliance on the Holy Spirit brings an increasing revelation that there is no better place to be than in God’s presence and so why would I want to do things that prevent me from being in God’s presence

    TS Eliot noted the following

    To believe in the supernatural is not simply to believe that after living a successful, material, and fairly virtuous life here one will continue to exist in the best possible substitute for this world, or that after living a starved and stunted life here one will be compensated with all the good things one has gone without : it is to believe that the supernatural is the greatest reality here and now

    By Paul Lindsay - 3rd November 2017
  3. In this context it’s worth visiting the letter of Jude. Quite hard hitting, but note verses 22-24 in particular.

    By Mike Joyce - 3rd November 2017
  4. Thank you. Thought provoking and very helpful. A refreshing and powerful reminder of our gift and cost of grace

    By Hilary Peake - 3rd November 2017
  5. Excellent article Rachel. Thank you.

    By Paul Valler - 3rd November 2017
  6. Thank you, Rachel. I am applying your lines of thought to the media frenzy about sexual harassment and past misdemeanours. The current febrile atmosphere tends to encourage people towards a thought pattern of wondering whether long-past thoughts, words and deeds are really culpable or not. Politically the concern is more whether individuals will be outed or not i.e. will I be found out?

    One thing is for sure; as Hannah expressed in her prayer: ” the Lord is a God who knows and by him deeds are weighed” I Sam 2 v3. Even though we may regularly and thankfully receive God’s grace, let’s not distort that blessing into believing that He ever turns a blind eye. We are all accountable and the grace, as you pointed out in your helpful article, comes at Jesus’ cost.

    By Jeremy Clare - 3rd November 2017
  7. Thank you Rachel very helpful.
    For me, the emphasis I find so relieving is that of a just and merciful God ‘choosing’ to remember my rebellion no more.
    This is in contrast to him being some kind of absent minded forgetful god, or one who sees rebellion on my part as just ‘mistakes’ as so commonly referred to these days.

    Keep writing Rachel 🙂

    By Paul Bridle - 3rd November 2017
  8. Thank you, Rachel. This is something I’ve been wrestling with this year and your thoughts have made me want to read Ishiguro’s novel which sounds really interesting. Under the old erroneous view that your good works saved you from the torments of hell people at least tried to behave decently, whereas now it seems they can do what they like, say sorry to God, and start all over again. Of course they know it’s not true but sometimes Christians act as if it is. Maybe Christian preachers have been rightly focussing on grace and forgiveness but neglecting to stress the importance of genuine repentance and turning away from sin.

    By Rosemary Grave - 3rd November 2017
  9. Thanks very much, Rachel, for an excellent piece. I agree with Mike Wells. Luther had a very low opinion of the Epistle of James. More fool him?

    By Martyn Berry - 3rd November 2017
  10. I agree with Mike Wells. If we turn to God for forgiveness, we have a duty to show our thankfulness by living a “better” life following the example set by Jesus. A life of service to God, and to our neighbours.
    In this 500th anniversary year of the reformation it is worth remembering that part of the corruption of the Gospel Luther railed against was the notion that people could buy their way into heaven and having done so could continue to live their sinful life. To everyone reborn, is to make a fresh start and learn to live a better life.

    By Ruth Davison - 8th November 2017

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