on redemption

This comes in response to a conversation with Raoul this morning, and to an ongoing conversation with Dave… I realised that i’ve been throwing language out there that has layers of (warped and) inarticulated thinking behind it, which means that my interpretation of the word is a thousand times removed from anyone else’s. I have a very bad habit of doing that.

This is my last ditch effort to redeem the word ‘redemption’.

In its original form (my dictionary tells me it’s the ‘archaic’ understanding), redemption meant the getting back of freedom. That’s how i use it. Being free of the things that would enslave me.

What are the things that enslave me?… it’s not just sin (i’m not denying the sin, but the focus on it can be a brilliant distraction from all the other things that are much harder to deal with); it’s the stories that trap me and the scripts by which i live my life. It’s the events that have happened to me that have destroyed something of life and worth within me, and letting that diminished self be the way i now define myself. I enslave other people in just the same ways. Redemption is getting back freedom from those stories, from that way of perceiving myself. It’s discovering i am more than the story by which i know myself – and that others are more than the story by which they know themselves, and by which i know them.

[Of course, that discovery (the knowing) is only the hint of redemption. The reality of redemption is when we let ourselves and others actually live in that freedom.]

(I’ve not used this language before, bear with me.) I think Jesus bought that freedom, but not by hanging on a cross (though that was the final, inevitable result of it). He bought it by having his feet washed by a woman of questionable reputation (of course, every time we say she might have been a prostitute we enslave her again), by recognising the humanity of both a greedy tax collector and a criminal. He bought freedom for people, but not because God needed it be bought (our freedom is already at the very heart of God). Jesus didn’t pay for it on my behalf to God, he paid for it on behalf of the rest of us (me) who normally aren’t prepared to pay what it costs to let someone else be free.

Raoul suggests that restoration is a better word. And maybe he’s right. But something in me seems to want to stick with redemption. Just this one last time anyway.


  1. Blair

    I can’t remember exactly how I wrote it, but I was pobdering once that Jesus’ crucifixion could have been God’s way of letting us all have a ‘concrete’ vehicle to forgive ourselves the things we think God holds against us, when in fact it’s we who most usually hold on to them. Does that come close to your fleshing out of ‘redemption’.

    I don’t see that either concept falls outside the boundaries of what I’ve encountered as ‘orthodox’ theology. Perhaps outside ‘popular’ theology, or ‘often shouted about’ theology, but not ‘orhodox’.

  2. Cheryl

    i don’t really think redemption has a lot to do with forgiveness… well, i do, but i think it’s only one tiny part of it. which is not to say that i don’t think i’m not desperately in need of forgiveness. i think the sin/forgiveness thing is far more a human hangup, and normally a hangup by those who would exclude others by virtue of their sinfulness (or inability to forgive). that might not be saying what i want it to say yet. i’m up against it timewise today.

    i don’t think i think the crucifixion was something God wanted / needed to happen at all. i think it was an inevitable end of a life lived as it was.

    [and i keep wanting to go further on what i mean when i say God, but now’s not the moment]

    probably the unorthodox stuff is still behind the scenes, in my thinking rather than in this post, so you’re right. i’ve deleted that line…

  3. thanks Cheryl.
    this is compelling, I wish we could grab a cup of coffee and have a long chat about it, but there’s that whole “other side of the world” thing …

  4. Cheryl

    that other side of the world thing does suck, doesn’t it. bring on greenbelt, i say.

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