Let’s get theological today.
No, don’t stop reading, this just might be interesting.
When you think about it, it is amazing how many people try to follow Jesus Christ, especially given his teachings are so subversive to our prevailing ways of living. Our American goals of life and those of most cultures are about power, wealth, comfort and fame.
Jesus lived in a time very much like ours. It was the age of an empire, except things were much worse than now. And what mattered was might. The elite were rich while the vast majority were poor. Slavery was ordinary and fully accepted. Brutality was commonplace. Political and religious corruption were rampant.
This is the world Jesus entered.
In Galatians, Saint Paul says humanity was in slavery to the basic principles of this world, but “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son” to redeem us.
Two declarations: Christ came at the right time, when things were at their worst. Christ came to redeem us, something we were unable to do for ourselves.
Redemption is a great word. It essentially means to take something worthless and make it into something of great value.
I grew up about an hour’s drive from Columbia, S.C., in a rural area where life was slow and not much happened. Imagine my childish excitement when my mother announced one lazy Friday evening that we were going to Columbia the following morning. And we were going to the S&H Green Stamp Store. I wasn’t sure what that was, but it had to be good.
Mom had been saving green stamps for years, pasting them into paper booklets and stacking them in the bottom of the linen closet. They seemed worthless to me, taking up space. And I had long wondered what good they were.
I woke up early that Saturday morning and helped her load all of them in the trunk of the car, and off we went. The first thing I saw as we pulled into the parking area was the big sign announcing “WE REDEEM S&H GREEN STAMPS.”
That’s the day I learned the meaning of redemption. We walked in with arms full of worthless scraps of paper, and we walked out with a toaster, a bird bath and a vacuum cleaner.
Through a process of redemption, Christ subverts the way we are conditioned to live. The useless become the useful. The weak become the strong. The poor become the rich. The servant becomes the master. Love, grace and mercy become the goals and methods of life while hatred and legalistic approaches are revealed to be destructive and counter-productive.
You won’t hear much about redeeming, or turning the useless into the important, ugliness into beauty, strength into kindness, cross and death into resurrection and life, except in church. It is where followers of Jesus gather weekly to try to stay focused on this other way, this subversive way.
Yes, it is amazing really how many people still follow Christ.
Visit a church or a number of churches and see if this way might be more appealing than what our weary souls are so accustomed to out there in the modern world of empires striving and accumulating. God is still in the business of redemption for all who are interested.