“I’m not defined by my past.”

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.

2 thoughts on ““I’m not defined by my past.””

  1. I recently found this blog and you are one of the few people who will stand up for a hurting (mutilated) spouse. My ex-husband left me for another married woman from our church. We were in Children’s Ministry together for five years, along with our son (who is now 17 and very angry). They both got their divorces and were married within six months.
    Not one person (Pastor, teacher’s, leader’s, or those hugging type fellow Christian friends who said “Love You” for years) came to my side (or my son’s).
    I heard “It takes two to ruin a marriage”, or “You need to suck it up and love him even more now”, etc. Pretty much word for word what you have said.
    The adulterer’s got loved, protected, defended, forgiven, and justified instantly. It was like everything I had ever said or done was under a microscope to dissect and excuse them.
    To see them unashamedly post their engagement pictures, Wedding pictures, and fantastic life on Facebook, and then to see Christ Followers that I respected show their joy and celebration for them, has been the hardest thing to grasp. She got the baby she so desperately wanted this year and everything that was vowed and promised to my son and I, is hers.
    They are June and Ward Cleaver…loved and admired by all. And I am treated like the sinner. His Christian family embraced her instantly and whatever he told them about me (to this day I don’t even know what I have done, because he refused to talk to me) makes them blame me for the divorce and my son’s anger/damage. This has sent my faith into the ground and I question everything I ever believed about God. At first I hung onto God for my life and over time it has gotten so hard. It’s as if he got blessed and rewarded for doing this to us. Now we get to watch them build a new home, enjoy his retirement, and their new baby (at 50 years old). I look forward to years of being a hard working nurse (no retirement), receiving a tiny fraction of his retirement (less than $900 a month), and years of student loans. He is a very smart man and I probably got raked in the divorce. I was a homeschooling, stay-at-home Mom and military wife, when this all hit our lives (our son was 12). We are still paying the consequences for their happiness.
    This year my son and I finally moved out of the state, where this all happened, so we can begin new. Best decision!
    My parents died one year before the affair was discovered. Both suddenly and two months apart. My siblings are all fractured and family support is not there. I have not found another church since we moved. I just have no more strength or trust to get out and look. We did go to another church in the previous state, but nobody really wants to step up and be “the church” to people like us. They have their own lives and problems. So you just fall into the church vibe of “Yea, I’m doing great” and throwing yourself into some sort of ministry again. Then go home and cry. Wondering why God is so far away.
    I once was a happy, creative, loving, joyful, fun, woman. In my perfect Christian bubble. A leader to young girls, on the drama and praise team. A lead soloist in our mega church. So free to love God and trust his people. No fear to die for my Savior and shout from the mountaintops about His love. That bubble is popped and now I see so much worldly views and cheap grace that I am terrified and so confused.
    My ex-husbands repentance tells him he is free to be married to her and now he just has to stay faithful to her. The Bible is what they use to justify themselves. They are adored in their new church and back in ministry together with great admiration. I am told that I am the one with the problem because I have unforgiveness in my heart. Forgiveness should allow me to be friends with them and have joy for their happiness, like everyone else. After all, his Dad did this to his Mom too and she is looked at as a saint for how beautifully she has shown “Christian forgiveness” to her ex-husband and his new wife. She calls her a friend now (after 30 years of divorce) His brother also did this to his first wife, long before I came on the scene. Nobody ever spoke of her. I only know his current wife.
    Why is adultery the only thing where you don’t have to forsake your sin? Meaning, what God called adultery on Tuesday, is now holy and honorable on Wednesday, because you and your new wife prayed for forgiveness together. Then I must know nothing of God and he is just some happy purple dinosaur in the sky, named Barney, that just lives for us to be happy and get along. John the Baptist died foolishly too.
    The truth my son once knew from the Bible, and what he learned in the walls of the very church where his (hero) Dad had an affair with his Sunday School Teacher, is where my anger is greatest. He no longer believes in God, and no matter what I did to bring the truth Biblically (without bashing his dad) was no match for the voice of what is now preached by so many “believers”. Even Bruce Jenner puts God as a positive ally to his decision of becoming a woman. Gay marriage is becoming a Godly thing and once you marry, it is even more of a sin to separate. (Gay or adultery) Why would anyone believe in God these days! This is no longer about the unsaved and the saved. You can no longer tell the goats from the sheep. I am terrified now!
    By the way, we did one counselling session with David Clark (we lived in the same city), but my husband refused to go back. Guess he didn’t want to hear the truth of what he was doing.

    1. Changed Forever,

      Your story is especially horrifying…that the church and “Christians” can get it THAT wrong! Heart-breaking and sickening. Sounds like your ex-husband came from a family where adultery is a generational sin and stronghold. That’s some pretty nasty stuff.

      I want to encourage you. Your son saw something that is not true Christianity. True Christianity follows Christ’s heart on the matter of adultery. Jesus is not tolerant of such sin. He talks about how it is defiling of the adulterous one (see Mark 7). Even when he is merciful with the woman caught in adultery, he still tells her to go and sin no more. Does not sound like that church is following Christ, in my opinion.

      As you look for a new church home, I would encourage you to see if there’s any Divorce Care (TM) groups in your area. They are a fairly sound group–I don’t agree with everything they teach but I generally think for myself as a rule 😉 –and might be able to provide an environment for safe sharing and healing with people who can relate to the pain in your story. I know I benefitted from attending such a group.

      Blessings and hugs from MN,

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