THE HARMONY OF REDEMPTION
There are many things in the Scriptures that are confounding. Mysteries abound and the way God operates sometimes seems very disturbing. In the Old Testament there are any number of events that would lead one to believe that God was not like Jesus, who actually was God. That in and of itself is an enormous conundrum. Jesus invites the little children to Himself and yet God wipes out entire cities. You can pretend you understand or even create some tortured reason, but if we are honest we must admit a finite understanding of the ways of our God. God kills the entire planet save eight, but John 3:16 tells us He loves the world.
I do not understand all the workings and intricacies of an automobile, but I do comprehend the basic principle and the purpose around which all those workings function. Lift up the car’s hood and see the swirling mass of wires and hoses and metal, and you can be sure of one thing, they all are designed to make this car run. Some help make the ride comfortable while others are an integral part of internal combustion. Some keep the engine cool; some aid in creating electrical power; some distribute that power; and some are the actual chambers of mini-explosions. But the goal is travel and in one way or another all the parts work together to accomplish that task.
And so it is with the divine interaction with fallen humanity. The entire Scriptural syntax coalesces around one overarching theme - redemption. We may not understand all the working parts and how certain actions are helpful in that endeavor, however we can still see redemption being shepherded along by the skillful and omniscient hand of Almighty God.
In John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men”, Lenny is completely dependent upon his friend George. Lenny is mentally retarded and is lost in a world of unsympathetic men. George takes care of him. But when asked, Lenny admits to another man that many times he does not understand what George is saying. But still Lenny loves and is devoted to George. And so it is with followers of the Lord Jesus. We know much more about Him than we need to in order to be convinced of His absolute love and grace, but there are things about God we cannot understand while in these earth suits.
I think sometimes that the world is turned off by our smugness and unwillingness to humbly admit that we do not have all the answers. When we dilute God down to formulas and moral codes and religious rituals it comes across as self righteous, and many times it is. But the gospel, the message of God to mankind, is glorious in its simplicity. There is no deeper or more profound issue than redemption, however God has made the door to redemption accessible and easy to understand. Perhaps its that simplicity to which the pompous intellect of man objects.
And I ask this question: If redemption is the main stream of Scripture from which all other issues are tributaries, then why do we argue about things that are not only subordinate, but many times pollute the pure stream of redemption itself? Scripture is only cohesive if it is permeated by the presence and power of redemption. Without redemption, Scripture becomes a collection of thoughts and events that are widely scattered and very varied in their topic and understanding. Redemption, redemption through Jesus Christ, is the brilliant light that shines throughout Scripture, and redemption must be the prism through which we interpret all Scripture.
Even judgment and punishment are the negative side of the redemption issue. They are tools that God can use to prod a sinner into the redemption provided by the Eternal Redeemer. Sometimes the prospect of judgment can be a most loving tool. But we as the redeemed must never lose sight of that gracious redemption, and we must seek ways to further illuminate it to those who dwell in darkness. This is no religious game, and unless you believe that God has decided to only redeem a miniscule company of sinners, then you must believe that God has given us a divine mission. And that mission is to be conduits of His redemption.
There is no higher knowledge than the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and the spiritual context of His passion. When a sinner realizes that Jesus was God’s Son and that His death and resurrection was the only act of eternal redemption offered by God, then upon a simple act of faith that sinner steps into the expanse of eternal freedom and life itself. “Learn of Me” exhorts the Savior. But how often have we left the sacrifice and gone chasing after things which do not profit redemptively? And sharing Jesus is the message of redemption.
Instead of sharing Jesus we castigate gay sinners for their sin. Instead of Jesus we do battle with liberals over money. Instead of Jesus we enter into strife over how the lost world acknowledges marriage. Instead of Jesus we organize movements designed to address all kinds of sins. Instead of Jesus we share our views about capital punishment. Instead of Jesus we argue over which version of the Bible God likes. Instead of Jesus we are forceful about the earth’s age. Instead of Jesus…instead of Jesus.
There will come a time in the future that all humans will have to face God. Some will have had their sins covered and stand in the glory of His grace. But others will stand uncovered and with the vileness of their sin exposed and awaiting eternal judgment. And on that day those who have no redemption may cry out an indictment against us. They may well point out that we were so caught up in moral causes and denominational divisions and Biblical debates that we reduced the message and lifestyle of redemption to a small part of the ecclesiastical experience. In fact, they may well point out that we spent an inordinate amount of time money on buildings, books, music, mortgage interest, doctrinal defenses, and a plethora of church activities, while allotting the message of redemption only a nominal share.
And in the face of such an indictment, we just may have to bow our heads in silence. Or, we can mitigate such a prospect by elevating Christ’s redemption to a place of supreme importance in both message and practice.