When Remembering Isn’t Enough

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

From holidays to monuments, memorials commemorate and preserve a significant person, place, or event. Think of memorials as direction markers in history showing the people and events that shaped cultures. Consider the following examples:

  • Memorial Day honors all US military personnel who have perished during all wars and military actions in which the United States has been involved.
  • Labor Day celebrates the American labor movement and commemorates the social and economic achievements of workers.
  • Veterans’ Day honors people who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day celebrated in other countries. All mark the anniversary of the end of WWI.
  • Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when the U.S. declared independence from Great Britain.
  • The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France in 1886, is a worldwide symbol of freedom and democracy.
  • Castle Clinton, the most visited national monument in the U.S., sits on the bottom of Manhattan Island and was originally built to protect New York from British invasion during the War of 1812.

Memorials aid our memory and help us preserve what we cherish most as a culture. We have many types of memorials throughout history: stones, prehistoric drawings on cave walls, grave markers, tombs, pyramids, obelisks, statues, etc.

Memorials also exist on a more personal level. We have special days like birthdays and anniversaries to commemorate the most important people in our lives. We have objects like wedding rings and photographs to help that remembrance to go beyond just a single day a year.

While remembering certainly exists on a variety of levels in our lives, is simply remembering enough? Is just bringing to mind people and places and events enough to serve the purpose for which these memorials exist?

Active Remembering

To help answer these questions, consider the theme of remembering that runs heavily throughout the Bible. Looking in depth at the word used for remembering can help us understand how we are called beyond simply recalling or remembering.

Azakarah (n) “memorial” = a sacrificial term describing the act “which brings the offerer into remembrance before God, or which brings God into honorable remembrance with the offerer.”

Zakhar (v) “to prick,” “pierce,” “penetrate”

These definitions help us see that the idea of remembering in Scripture goes well beyond just recollection. Action and sacrifice are also significant aspects of remembering.

Remembering or recalling by itself isn’t enough. Without action, we just have a day off work or a reason to eat or spend too much. When a call to action accompanies our remembering — which it does throughout Scripture — we find ourselves changed, hopefully for the better, as a result of that active remembering.

The goal of studying remembering, whether we Don’t Forget to Remember or strive for Purposeful Remembering or Active Remembering, is to discover the true purpose remembering should have in our lives. With that purpose, we can see the results that active remembering can bring to the life of a Christian.