Sunday, September 28, 2014

Redemption Stories

Well, it’s been a few weeks now since I decided to once again embark on a journey I’ve been on before. Yes, I have re-entered the magical world of “Lost.” As many of you know, that crazy show about survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island is far-and-away my favorite TV series of all time. “Seinfeld” is great for laughs, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a better person for having watched it. What really makes “Lost” so great is not the mysteries or the crazy plot twists, although those things add to the experience, but rather the incredibly well-developed characters and the transformational stories of redemption portrayed. It seems clear by the end of the series that the show’s title is more than just a reference to their physical circumstances. Another redemption story, “The Shawshank Redemption,” has been sitting atop the IMDb all-time movie rankings for years now, growing more and more appreciated with the passage of time. I watch these stories and cry for these fictional characters because they very accurately portray something that transcends fiction: the human condition. We are all broken people.

This got me to thinking about how God sees us. We all love to see people find victory over the challenges in their lives. How much more does God rejoice in the redemption of people? This is in itself an answer to the question of “why do bad things happen,” or “why does God allow evil to exist?” I don’t for one moment believe that God causes bad things or evil, as I’ve written before, but I do believe those things play a part in His greater purposes. One of the great mysteries of God is how He can work bad things for good. Another way to look at it is to ask yourself what the world would look like if bad things never existed. What would be good if there was nothing bad? What would it mean to love if there was never hate? What would it mean to have comfort if there were no pain and sorrow? Would the world have been better off in the long run if Adam hadn’t eaten that fruit?

Maybe such a perfect world is really not the best of all possible worlds. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be that way because God is as big a fan of redemption stories as we are. Maybe He, like us, finds it more rewarding to see the restoration of things than for those things to have never needed the change. It certainly makes for a more captivating story. Yes, God has a reason to allow ugly things to exist, so that true beauty may emerge. Sin and death are ugly things, but God had a plan in mind to defeat them, and that was the cross. Could there be a more horrific image than that of the Son of God being ripped to shreds and then hung on the cross to die a slow, gruesome death? Yet God transformed that which was the most ugly thing into the most beautiful act of love this world has ever seen. The cross of Jesus Christ signifies the ultimate redemption story, not only because He conquered the grave by rising on the third day, but because His sacrifice was on our behalf, to offer redemption for all of us broken people. He paid the price for our sins, and now we can be made free to live the life He desires for us. That life begins when we accept the gift He offers, but it isn’t fully realized until we shed this body of death and join Him in eternity. Revelation 21: 3-5 says:
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”

We who believe have a promise of full redemption that will one day be realized. I cannot read these words without getting teary-eyed, because there is so much sorrow and pain to be felt in the meantime, and though we are forgiven, we continue to struggle with the desires of the flesh. But how much greater will it be when He takes it away! This gives me comfort. There is purpose in our suffering because we are better restored than if we were never broken. Our story is part of a bigger story that involves this whole world. How great it is to be a part of God’s great redemption story!

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