Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – I Corinthians 6:9-11, NLT
“I am not defined by my past.”
This is a true statement.
However, more needs to be said.
A follower of Christ recognizes, as the Apostle points out in this passage, from where we came. She recognizes the need for God’s intervention and for the cleansing by Christ’s blood.
A follower of Christ does not suffer from sin amnesia.
He or she knows and accepts as true the sinful history of who they were before meeting Christ. “Some of you were once like that” (I Corinthians 6:11a). In other words, a true Believer lives in humility and gratitude.
She is humble as she recognizes her sin, which is now hopefully in the past.
She is grateful as she recognizes she her need for Christ’s cleansing blood–a gift to her as an undeserving person.
It is true that we are new creations in Christ when we accept His gift of forgiveness (see II Corinthians 5:17). However, that does not wipeout the natural consequences for our sins. Forgiveness does not equal automatic reconciliation or restoration.
It does not undo the damage caused by months or years of lies.
It does not make STDs suddenly disappear.
It does not change the historical fact of someone else having illicitly partaken of the marriage bed.
Let me explain by analogy:
A murderer may become a new creation in prison. He may even point out that he “is not defined by his past.” However, the person he murdered does not come back to life just because the murderer found forgiveness. His past still means he has a debt to pay to society. Justice says he must serve his prison sentence.
This fact does not make him less forgiven by God.
This does not invalidate the truth that he is a new creation in Christ.
Nor does this mean he is doomed to act and live like a murderer for the rest of his life.
It is in the last sense I encourage us to grasp the truth about “I am not defined by my past.” An adulterous spouse saying these things needs to remember natural consequences flow from his or her actions. The marriage is not magically brought back to life after they murdered it through adultery. Forgiveness does not mean they were never an adulterous spouse. That fact never changes. It is their true history.
What can change is their future. Adulterous spouses can change how they behave moving forward. They do not have to give into such adulterous or deceitful sin anymore.
The adulterer/adulteress can be the identity of who they were in the past.
But for that to happen, an adulterous spouse must learn from their past and choose differently. Forgetting one’s past or denying its impact in the present is not learning from it.
While we may no longer be defined by our past in Christ, we can still allow it to control us if we refuse to face it and accept the lessons from its reality. We may no longer be that person. But even God’s forgiveness will never change the fact that we once were.