“Feels like I’m going to be punished for the rest of my life,” lamented Dujuan “Zoe” Kennedy as he and four others stood outside the White House gate after being refused entrance.
Kennedy spent 14 years imprisoned for selling drugs and manslaughter. However, while incarcerated he diligently worked to educate himself and rehabilitate his life.
Following his release, Kennedy returned home to Detroit to mentor young people at risk in engaging in criminal behavior. It has become his passion and life mission to help those turn their lives around who are heading down a dangerous path.
As a result of his work, he was formally invited to meet with President Biden at a White House summit discussing community violence intervention. However, when he arrived, he was told that he didn’t have U. S. Secret Service clearance.
So, there he stood on the sidewalk feeling dejected as he watched other participants being admitted.
As I read Zoe’s story, several thoughts came to mind.
#1 Change is possible.
Regardless of what crimes we have been convicted of or sins we have committed, we can change. We can learn from our mistakes. And turn our lives around.
This is the essence of repentance. It’s a change of mind that results in a change of life. The Bible speaks of those in the Corinthian church who had been thieves, drunkards, idolaters, and sexually immoral who had changed. They had obeyed the gospel. Their sins had been washed away by the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:9-11
#2 Past experiences, good or bad, can be used to help others.
Zoe Kennedy is not wallowing in the regret of his past mistakes. Rather he’s using those experiences to make a difference in the lives of others. It’s a good lesson for all of us.
In the Body of Christ, we all have different “gifts” (Rom. 12:6). Sometimes those gifts involve using our personal experiences to encourage, advise and help other people. There is a purpose to your past, and by God’s grace He can use it for His glory.
God used the experiences of Moses who lived in the desert for 40 years to lead Israel out Egypt and through the wilderness to the Promised Land. He used the experience of Joshua as Moses’ assistant to prepare him for leadership.
Furthermore, God used the experiences of Joseph who was envied by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused by a devious woman and unfairly imprisoned to ultimately deliver his people from famine. Later, Joseph could reflect back on his experiences and say, “God meant it for good” in order to “save many people alive” (Gen. 50:19-21).
What have you experienced that’s equipped you to minister to others? Personal experiences? Vocational experiences? Educational experiences? Spiritual experiences? Even tragic experiences?
#3 Sometimes, we still suffer for our past sins.
While it seems unfair, Zoe’s violent criminal history excluded him from an event he was invited to, according to Secret Service protocol. Maybe the regulations need changing.
Yet, it’s a fact, that sometimes we suffer consequences for our past mistakes. The impact of a bad decision may scar our lives forever. Maybe physically. Or financially. Or emotionally. Or relationally.
The immutable law of “sowing and reaping” cannot be circumvented. We do reap what we sow. Good or bad. Righteous or unrighteous. Carnal or spiritual. (Gal. 6:7-9).
#4 The Good News is God will Forgive.
Regardless of what consequences we may suffer in this life for unwise choices or sinful actions, God offers this encouraging promise. “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34). How? Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we can be forgiven. The slate can be wiped clean. And our past becomes irrelevant to God.
“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us,” penned David regarding God’s mercy (Ps. 103:12).
Using this metaphor the prophet Micah said that God “would cast all our sins into the depths of the sea “(7:19).
Indeed as the beloved John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:7).
People may remember our past and hold it against us. Institutions may discriminate against us. Laws may unfairly limit us. But our merciful God forgives. And forgets.
If you feel punished for your past, know that you can rise above it and make a difference in the lives of others. And find favor with the Lord.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
3 responses to “Dealing With Your Past in the Present”
Ken, a very encouraging blog to all that have committed sins earlier in their lives. There is forgiveness if we truly repent and ask God to cleanse us from it all.
This is truly an encouragement to me. Some hold past sins against those who have sinned, thereby requiring more of us than God requires.
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