If you’re new-ish around here, you can check out my original post on “living redeemed” from 2016 here, and my follow up post from 2017 here.
Anyway…onto my *new* thoughts about living redeemed. In my previous posts I tended to emphasize more on the living part — going out and doing things, making actions while considering God’s role in them, making life choices while considering how they might bring God the most glory etc. However, I feel like in the midst of doing those things I forgot to ponder the meaning of redemption. Or rather, I lost sight of the fact that doing these things was meant to come out of a “redeemed attitude,” not in an effort to redeem my actions myself.
I am not a very good goal setter — often I will look to others to get inspiration or ideas and feed off of their creativity. However, once I know what a goal is or an achievable end is, figuring out the means to get there is a piece of cake. I can do the things, I like doing the things. I’ll give you a list of all the things to do with itemized sub tasks and due dates, if you’d like.
But this isn’t about “doing things” – this is about the place from which I begin to do the things. Let’s bring this back to 2016 and recap what “redeemed” is defined as (or rather the present transitive verb, “redeem”, as defined by our good friends, Merriam-Webster.
- a: to buy back (repurchase)
b: to get or win back
- to free from what distress or harms: such as
a: to free from captivity by payment of ransom
b: to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental
c: to release from blame or debt (clear)
d: to free from the consequences of sin
- to change for the better (reform)
- repair, restore
- a: to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby
b(1): to remove the obligation of by payment the U.S. Treasury redeems savings bonds on demand
(2): to exchange for something of value redeem trading stamps
c: to make good (fulfill)
- a: to atone for (expiate), redeem an error
b(1): to offset the bad effect of
(2): to make worthwhile (retrieve)
A key piece in all aspects of “redemption” is that there is a purchasing or paying back of something. By rights, then, there must be something that needs to be bought back, brought back to good standing, repaid, etc. This is easy to apply when we consider objects or more extreme situations of depravity. It is more difficult to apply when we pause to consider out own lives – particularly when we haven’t run into any extreme difficulties or situations which we overtly need redemption from.
To accept redemption, we first have to accept that we were once in good standing, and that we then fell from that good standing. So, if we once were in a good financial state, and then ended up with a loan, we could be redeemed from that loan by paying it off/having it forgiven. Similarly, when we sin against another person, we can redeem/atone for that error and seek reconciliation with the person we sinned against by offering our condolences and (often) by offering to make things right/change/fix something that requires effort from us. Further, we can be redeemed out of a situation in which we are enslaved/indebted to someone by repaying our debt or being freed/purchased out of slavery. Again … I end up using more extreme examples because we just don’t see our regular lives as ones in need of redemption.
So. If I want to live my life redeemed, I need to accept the fact that it needed to be redeemed. I know I can often forget that my life needs redemption especially at the start of a new year – with resolutions & intentions & goals for the year, I am striving to make a part of my life I know needs “work” by changing my habits and/or adding new ones. Which is totally fine. I can redeem my own healthy eating habits. I don’t think realizing we need to exercise or have a better budget means that we have understood our need for redemption. More often than not those are things we can probably fix on our own…but that doesn’t mean that the reasons we need to fix them are not a way to lead us there, and sometimes it is the combination of the big and the little things that lead us to a point of realizing we need to be saved from where we are.
Also, we tend to fall into a headspace in which we are not “bad” people, and we are able to rely on our own self-righteousness for justification. I don’t participate in
“sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; … dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like,”
(Galatians 5: parts of 19, 20, and 21)
then I am CLEARLY fine. And yet…I can’t skip the words in the ellipsis
“hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,”
(the rest of Galatians 5:20)
because those ones….some of those ones I do. I cannot selectively look at my sins and decide that because I don’t do “the big ones” I am totally fine. Besides, if I look at the list of the fruits of the spirit (vs the fruits of the flesh listed above),
love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control,
can I honestly say that I am exuding these things without restraint? Any non-display indicates, again, my failings and falling short. If I really see the sorry state of affairs that so many areas of my life are in, and honestly look at my own abilities as the human being that I am, then I will never be able to fully redeem my own self.
And if you’re saying “I can save myself” – I get it. I TOTALLY get it. It is sometimes SO much easier to say that we are in control of our lives and that we want to do what we want and if it ends badly, we’ll own that too. It was our own making and we will accept the fall. Some of the stuff that we’re not supposed to do FEELS good and is FUN. And sometimes it doesn’t lead to overt negative impacts on our lives – and if it does, we’re fine to accept them. And it is a lot nicer and comforting sometimes to feel like we can rely on our good deeds to get us somewhere than to have to place trust in someone/something we cannot see.
But in the end, if we are relying on ourselves for things, I think we eventually have to accept that we cannot reverse ALL the things in our lives. At some point, if we truly understand the weight of any sin
For the wages of sin is death
Not “the wage of 500 sins when not outweighted by good”
Our self-righteousness (MY self-righteousness) gets in the way of us being able to accept the pure and simple fact that Jesus came to save us from our sins. Right here. Right now. Redemption and renewal IN our current lives — not just so that we might get to go to heaven with him. N.T. Wright puts is nicely in his book The Day the Repemption Began:
They [the Jews in this period] were hoping, longing, and praying for what the prophets had sketched, what the Psalms had sung, what the ancient promises to the patriarchs had held out in prospect: not rescue from the present world, but rescue and renewal within the present world” (page 113)
When I take stock of my life — truly take stock of where I am, what I’ve done, and the ways that I have failed – I know that I need to be saved from myself.
However, I have ALREADY been redeemed from those things. I have already been saved from my weaknesses, my falling shorts, my missing the marks, my times I am selfish, the times I do not act in love, when I don’t treat others as the image-bearers they are, when I do not honour my God above all else.
Already done. Paid for. Wiped away.
To say we are forgiven is to say that the errs we have done are no longer counted against us — to say we are redeemed is to go further and to say that we have been bought back with a price, not just having our debts cast aside for nothing in return. And if I am redeemed already, then I can move forward into action from a place of knowing that I am already enough, saved, and worthy. It is then much easier, as I continue to fail, to grant myself grace every day to be better than I was the day before. It is from here that I can extend the same mercy to myself, to forgive myself, and to strive to be more like Christ not because I need to to prove myself to him, but because I am moved with thankfulness and want to better reflect what he has done for me to the world. Moving into a redeemed mindset and carrying less of the worry, weight, and fear of failing on myself.
It is not that we do not strive to be better, nor is it that we are striving to be better so that God might like us again – we strive for better-ness because we have already been set free and we are free to take steps towards becoming all that God has designed us to be. It isn’t easy, nor is it always simple … but it is so much easier when we know that we are starting from a clean spot every day, every hour, every moment. Yes, I have failed, but YES, I am redeemed!