Moving Forward, Even If We Can't Go Back

June 13th, 2012
Promotional photo: Columbia Pictures

Long before The Avengers assembled on the silver screen to save the world from an extraterrestrial threat, the Men in Black were already hard at work managing (and covering up) alien activity on earth. This summer, after a ten-year absence, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), are back, this time in 3D.

In Men in Black 3 Agent J must travel back to the 1960’s to stop a rogue alien from assassinating his partner and to prevent a threat that—if unaltered—would have devastating effects on history. When J arrives in the past (after taking a leap of faith from the top of the Chrysler Building), he is greeted by a younger, albeit equally cynical, version of Agent K (played by Josh Brolin). Reunited (sort of), the pair must track down the alien threat and rewrite history to restore the future to normal (with the elder Agent K intact).

No Do-Overs

We don’t have the luxury of journeying back in time to correct the past, and therefore the future. But no doubt we all have had moments when we wanted to go back and fix things we said or did that we shouldn’t have. Maybe we said something cruel to a pestering younger sibling or lashed out against a classmate. Many of us can also recall times when we should have said or done something but didn’t. We wish we could have another chance to get it right, a do-over. But we don’t have advanced alien technology that allows us to travel through time and make changes, so we’re stuck with the consequences.

Though we cannot erase our sins and missteps, we are not without hope. We serve a God of grace who, in the person of Jesus Christ, made atonement for our sins and offers us forgiveness. We don’t have to earn forgiveness; we just have to embrace and accept it. We do this through repentance. Repentance involves both confessing our sins and committing to a new way of life. It involves learning from our past so that we can move forward into the future—better and stronger than before. We see repentance at work throughout Scripture. Many biblical heroes— Moses, Rahab, David, Peter, and Paul to name a few—turned away from past sins and found new life in Christ.

As Christians and people of grace, we need to be careful that we don’t treat repentance as some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card that we can use over and over again. If we fall into the habit of sinning, then confessing and apologizing, then sinning, then confessing and apologizing, we aren’t truly repenting. We need to be intentional about learning and growing from our mistakes and working to make sure that we don’t repeat them.

Repentance and Renewal

Adolescence is a stage of life that people often associate with acting impulsively and learning by trial and error. Youth, like anyone else, are prone to messing up. While some of these errors can be dismissed as relatively harmless youthful indiscretions, others cause real pain and have real consequences. Though young people need to understand the severity of bullying, underage drinking, and other such errors, they also need to know that these missteps don’t define them. They can repent.

Of course, even true repentance won’t keep us from sinning or repeating mistakes. As human beings we are flawed and will always fall short of perfection. Instead of striving to live a flawless life, youth would do better to follow Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:2: “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.”

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

comments powered by Disqus