Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear
It’s a long drive from northern California to San Diego. The radio station that came in strong during one stretch of open road played Christian music with the DJs telling humorous stories or sharing uplifting Bible verses between songs. The station lived up to its motto of being positive and encouraging.
But one of the efforts to encourage – while sincere and enthusiastic – took a wrong turn.
“Do you know why your rearview mirror is so small and your windshield is so large?” asked the radio voice. “It’s because where you’re going is infinitely more important than where you’ve been.”
Wrong on two counts.
First, when it comes to a car’s design the rear view mirror is as big as it needs to be to give you a look out the back window of the car. If it were larger it wouldn’t show you any more of the traffic coming up behind you, but it would get in the way of seeing what is coming up on the road ahead.
Second, from a theological standpoint the analogy breaks down quickly. The radio voice was trying to apply the mirror/windshield set-up to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi where he spoke of his past, listing his credentials in an effort to show that when it came to worldly reputation he had as much a claim to being highly regarded as anyone. Then he looked to his future and said:
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14.)
He essentially said that all his worldly credentials were bunk compared to what is given him in Jesus. Hence his statement that he forgets what is behind and looks forward to the goal Jesus promises him. But he never said not to remember the past because the future is supposedly “infinitely more important.” That would be unbiblical.
In fact, the Bible teaches that remembering where you’ve come from is extremely important.
Understanding the Road You’re On
Paul himself said the past is worth remembering.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12.)
The past is important, he went on to say, because it provides context for the present reality under the New Covenant:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13.)
Remembering the past helps you understand who you are in Christ right now.
Should you live in the past? No, the Bible doesn’t teach that. Your thoughts of the past should be the proper size: large enough to show you where you’ve come from but not so large as to obscure your view of where you are now and where you’re going.
There’s nothing wrong with a well-positioned rearview mirror. After all, a proper focus on the past, present and future glorifies God because they all reveal your relationship with him – what he has done for you, what he is doing in your life, and what he has in store for you for eternity.