Meditations in Colossians: 27. Redeemed
Col 1:13,14 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption (through his blood) the forgiveness of sins.
In the previous meditation I commented on how in this series I have felt the need to pick up on specific words or phrases to stop and pause afresh over their meaning. We come now to that highly important and significant word ‘redemption’. I ended that previous meditation commenting that Jesus came on a rescue mission, to establish legal grounds that satisfy justice, to enable all these other things to happen to release us and set us free to live entirely new lives. That was in the context of the great rescue but in the midst of that sentence I draw your attention again to the words, ‘to establish legal grounds to satisfy justice.’ That, in as few words as possible, sums up Jesus’ work on the Cross.
Few of us think deeply enough to realise and acknowledge the existence of this concept of ‘justice’ in the human experience and then vocabulary. Justice starts out in childhood when one child wails, “It’s not fair; you gave more to him than to me!” The child appeals to an idea of fairness. Nobody taught it to him or her but they knew its absence and cried out for a remedy. A dictionary might define it as “behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” Every tribe, people group or nation in history has exhibited this concept. They may exercise it differently but they all have exercised it.
In our modern age foolish philosophers and moral thinkers have sought in various ways to do away with guilt and blame, or rather the blame is passed on to others. For example, he stole because he was poor and never had a chance in life to better himself. Or, she gave her body to him because she needed to feel she was loved because throughout her childhood she had lacked love and her father had abandoned her. The terrorists exploded a bomb because they were a repressed people. Or, he shot fifteen people in the shopping mall because he was unloved, and had been abandoned to a solitary life of playing violent computer games.
We may go along with the philosophy that excuses people their sins until it affects me personally. When a pair of burglars break into my house and violate my family, I want the police to do something about them – and not just scold them. Justice says in some way they should pay for the wrongs they have done; there needs to be a balancing up; that’s what justice demands – that they be stopped but, even more, they be made to suffer as I have suffered. This was essentially what was behind the ear for an ear, or eye for an eye law (Ex 21:24) in the Old Testament primitive Law given through Moses.
Now all of these things may contribute to the person’s behaviour, but as individual’s made in the image of God, they have the ability to choose exactly how they will behave, and God thus holds them accountable. In fact He holds every single one of us accountable for every wrong thought, word or deed. He doesn’t look on us as a bunch of children who don’t have a clue about life, but He respects us as those who know exactly what we are doing and who thus can be held accountable for what we did.
Imagine, if you will, you suffer from amnesia and you can remember nothing about how the human race works. You travel around the world and observe human behaviour through completely new eyes with no preconceived ideas. I am sure that again and again you would see things that would stir a response in you of, “Why doesn’t somebody stop that? Why doesn’t somebody do something about that?” as you observe a man abusing his daughter, a wife violently beating her husband, men holding up a bank, a man stealing from work, a tribe wiping out another tribe, one religious group warring against others who don’t hold the same beliefs. As a human being, even though you have lost everything else, you will still have this sense of ‘justice’ that says, this is wrong, someone should stop it and deal with the perpetrators.
Now imagine you are outside of time and you confront God at the end of time, as all things are being wound up. You cannot help but ask Him, “God, there is this inherent sense of justice and yet as it has come to an end, all these people, groups and nations have got away with behaviour that is wrong; they should not be allowed to get away with it! Why don’t you do something?” He asks gently, “What would you have me to do?” You pause and think and eventually say, “Well all those wrong doers should be punished, justice demands it.” He asks again, “Which wrong doers? Where do you want me to draw the line?” I reply, “I don’t know I need help. Can you somehow show the severity of the wrongs up on a big screen so we can get an idea of the magnitude of what they have done?” A big screen appears and it is covered with small red dots, so many as to almost cover the screen. I ask, “Which criminal does this represent?” Instead of giving a direct answer He says, “Well each dot represents every wrong thought, wrong word, or wrong act throughout this person’s life. What would you have me do about them as they stand here now before my throne?” I respond boldly, “Well justice demands you punish them. There is so much red altogether it has to be the ultimate punishment, death I presume, exclusion from your presence!” Very quietly He says, “That is your screen.”
I am condemned by my own words. I believe in justice. I believe wrong doers should be punished, and yet I find I am a wrong doer and the court of my own mind has condemned me. I pronounced my own sentence as I stood before the throne in heaven. As I stand before God with my head hung down, He makes me an offer. “You may remember the stories of how Richard the lion heart was ransomed from prison. You may have come across pawnbrokers who require money to redeem the articles sold into hock. In each case there was a person or an article that was lost to the world. The only way it could be redeemed was by the giving of money. One of your famous writers, Charles Dickens, wrote a book called a Tale of Two Cities and in it, one man gave his life to ransom or redeem the life of another man. He swapped places. If you will believe it, my Son, Jesus, when he as the eternal Son of God died on that Cross at Calvary, gave his life so that your life could be spared. If you will receive it, I will spare you and adopt you into my family.” I nod dumbly and then whisper, “Yes, please.” And I am redeemed.
Of course I pictured this as occurring at the end of the world and there perhaps will be re-enacted what took place, in my case, over forty years ago, for that is essentially what happens before we are born again. Jesus’ death earned my redemption. I was lost, guilty, condemned by justice/ I was helpless and hopeless and then this offer was presented to me and I took it and was redeemed. The work was done by Jesus two thousand years ago but it has to be appropriated by each person as an individual. We either accept it, or are left in the hands of justice. What a choice!