Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

Turning Tragedy into a Redemptive Movement

Redemption as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary (
redemption – n.
1. The act of redeeming or the condition of having been redeemed.
2. Recovery of something pawned or mortgaged.
3. The payment of an obligation, as a government’s payment of the value of its bonds.
4. Deliverance upon payment of ransom; rescue.
5. Christianity. Salvation from sin through Jesus’s sacrifice.

That last line, the part about salvation from sin, has been the emphasis of this blog and a strong motivating factor in my recent research. I’m not sure that this definition from the Am. Heritage Dictionary is as complete in describing the part about Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and this critical aspect of redemption. Let me suggest another source for a more thorough definition (the World English Dictionary, found at

Redemption – Christianity:
a. deliverance from sin through the incarnation, sufferings, and death of Christ.
b. atonement for guilt

As has been previously noted, there are two complementary themes to redemption in the New Testament: the release from enslavement and the payment of a price for that release (Palma, 1993). Words translated as “redemption” in the New Testament mean to buy, to purchase, or to pay a price to free someone from bondage (MacArthur, 2005). Redemption represents a loosening of bonds, a repayment for a debt, a full reinstatement from past transgressions, or a purchase back of something that was lost. The debt owed is not still hanging over the individual; it has been fully cancelled or cleared (MacArthur, 2005).

We become new creations in Christ. The old is past – all things become new (2Corinthians 5:17). In the New Testament we see Jesus demonstrating His commitment to the reclamation of mankind by giving of not only His blood (Acts 20:28), but also His life (Matt. 20:28) as well as the giving of Himself (Gal. 1:4) to rescue and restore those who would accept this sacrifice to a rightful relationship with the Father (MacArthur, 2005). It was the posture of Jesus to not consider His own comforts but His focus was on the big picture, modeling the love of God while encouraging His followers to pursue the high calling of a life devoted to God (Philippians 2: 5-11).

The old is past – all things become new (2Corinthians 5:17). There is a re-emphasizing of this here reflecting on the definition from the World English Dictionary above, particularly on the phrase in their definition on how redemption means “atonement for guilt.” The tragic loss of a loved one can lead to resentment, overwhelming feeling of guilt and remorse, blame and bitterness; but can this also lead to redemption? Recently two stories described as expressions of redemption seem to illustrate how we as humans by God’s grace can respond to the unique challenge of a tragic indiscriminate loss of a loved one.

One search on redemption led to the discovery of a website entitled, “Columbine Redemption.” This website was one family’s response to the tragic death of their own daughter in the Columbine, CO High School shootings in April of 1999. The sister, brother and father of one of the shooting victims. Rachel Scott, continue to speak to audiences around the country and have also sponsored other events to encourage teenagers and parents through events and special programs. One such program, called “Rachel’s Challenge” addresses bullying behavior and is reported to have helped stop teen suicides. Over 16 million students and parents have participated in workshops and programs sponsored by Rachel’s family ( All of this redemptive work came out of a family tragedy, and reflected a family’s means not only of processing this horrible event, but of preventing similar types of events from occurring in the lives of others. Not a bitter response, but a compassionate extension from hurting to helping others.

Another tragic event causing the death of their daughter Maggie Lee led the Henson Family of Shreveport, LA to sponsor a program in honor of their daughter, which has now grown to become a movement. Encouraged by friend s to host a day of service on their daughter’s birthday, what they assumed would be a small program dedicated to the positive memory of their daughter has grown a city-wide day of service with over 18,000 people participating in the first year. There has also been a book written about the tragedy; but also countless stories describing how even strangers impacted by their daughter’s life have chosen to act to promote good works and not let this tragedy become the final story written about this 12-year-old’s life. See the story here:

The old is past – all things become new (2Corinthians 5:17). Out of tragedy, two families seek and find “redemption” of sorts. There is a deliverance from guilt and self-pity over the loss of their loved one; and also a new beginning, one of hopefulness focused on the needs of others. Such courageous behavior is hard for me to fathom. It is truly a spiritual gift that only God could give to a family in the midst of such a tragic loss of life. The efforts to understand and comprehend their own loss led to a God-inspired movement to help others out of the depths of their own deep hurt.

Somehow the wise man Job in the midst of his own family loss could say these words: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised" (Job 1:21). Our lives have been redeemed; not with the blood of bulls or other animals or corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Jesus our Savior (1 Peter 1:18-19). He who understood and was sympathetic to our own complex feelings (Hebrews 4:15) has enabled some to help ransom others from tragedy and despair as redemptive tools in His own nail-scarred hands.

* Macarthur, J. F. (2005). Redemption Through His Blood. On The Believer’s Life in Christ [Cassette]. Panorama City, CA: Grace to You Ministries.
* Palma, A. (1993). Redemption (Part I). Advance Magazine, May 1993, pp. 12-13 . Reprinted and available through the Enrichment Journal. Springfield, MO.: Gospel Pub House.

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Joseph J. Bucci

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