No way! No wimpy, 98-pound weakling redemptions for me! Give me the real stuff, the real hope in new life, new mercies, and real change.
If you have followed my musings for any time now, you might know that I was able to set up a Google Reader search for key terms related to my dissertation research. One term which gets the majority of action but is often overused is this term, “redemption.” Everyone has the opportunity to find redemption, if you scan through the volume of articles collected, but by varied means outside of what our faith heritage says. There is redemption in the sports area/field/activity; or redemption with coupons or bonds; or the redemption of the action movie genre when the protagonist overcomes the odds; and the occasional painful story of a wronged person finding redemption through the courts, or through justice being served. I enjoy the latter stories the most, because like most people there is a heart connection with the “Rocky” stories of redemption. But these kinds of redemption are all similar: a singular person or team gets wronged or is denied justice, and through their own efforts makes everything right or overcomes their adversity. This would be great if redemption had to do with human efforts, and if redemption opportunities were equally available to everyone. As much as the conservative movement may promote this, the fact is that this kind of human effort to find redemption from poverty or poor education or through the courts just isn’t available to everyone, not can everyone easily recognize and take advantage of it.
This became very clear to me with the reading of the latest ‘redemption lite’ story found on a marketing blog called “The Five.” (http://www.getthefive.com/articles/the-boardroom/got-redemption/). In this recent post, the author suggests that redemption is like milk. Seriously. In the feature story called, “Got Redemption,” the author writes (and I quote): “Not got milk, redemption. The substance is different but the concept’s the same.” Really?
The story goes on to talk about career regrets, and to not look back on regrets (because we all have them – I wrote of this earlier: http://rediscoveringredemption.com/post/20112338729/regrets-or-rejoice). Here redemption from regrets (at least career regrets) can be gained, according to the author, “in the warmth of a child’s smile, the thanks of a neighbor helped, or the appreciation of a volunteer group on which you have served.”
I greatly appreciate receiving thanks and recognition for things done. I have a binder full of them here at work, and a file folder I am collecting with new ‘thank-you’ cards. At home I have an entire folder of many years’ worth of thanks and recognitions hidden in a drawer in the attic. The memories are pleasant, and reflecting back makes the difficult experiences leading to the victory very sweet. But if the appreciation of others could help me find redemption for all of my sins and mistakes, then I would think that I have plenty of exchange credits to get into this “redemption nirvana.” But what substance would there be for eternity, or even yet another day, knowing that both good and bad event will happen and my credits will soon be extinguished?
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV). This passage from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth is one of the most insightful and applicable sections of scripture which can very easily be read in light of this current experience in which we live. Paul is much more tender and encouraging in this second letter, after excoriating the leaders of the Corinthian church for their condoning of sin and excess in his first tome. Everything is put in perspective here by Paul, how, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (v17, NIV). But this is because the redemption of which Paul speaks is eternal, it is complete, and it is not about us at all. It is about a Great and Marvelous Mercy which saw our futility and granted us a season of peace, both now (Philippians 4:7) and forever, as we are no longer at enmity with God (Ephesians 2:16 Young’s Literal Translation). It is not through a child’s smile or someone’s appreciation that we do not lose heart, but in light of God’s mercy (here in 2 Corinthians 2:1; see also Romans 12:1).
It is in light of God’s mercy that we truly see a redemption not made by my own efforts, or the chance kindness of a stranger. “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, NIV). We like Stephen, the deacon in Acts who was the early church’s first martyr, are “hard pressed…persecuted…struck down…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV); but we see Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56) through it all. And we know that it is an eternal redemption, not a “light and momentary” fix which cannot remove this enmity with God. Only a substantive redemption could; only a powerful redemption with a real sacrifice and valid payment in full for our sins could stand up to the loss and hurts and frustrations which dog at us each and every day and threaten to overwhelm us. Only a complete redemption with Christ on the cross crying out, “It is finished” (John 19:30) could fully satisfy and complete this work. This was the signature event to confirm our hope that as Jesus is the first-born of our redemption, “so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21b, NIV) that we too will see this great redemption, not only in our future, but even here in our present afflictions and doubts.
Please, no wimpy, 98-pound weakling redemptions for me. Give me the real stuff, the real hope in new life, new mercies, and real change, because what I see now, no matter how pretty or kind or momentarily helpful, is temporary; but the truth of my redemption is solid and lasting and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).