In my last post I expressed some concerns about how we think about redemption in Christianity. On the one hand, “bad news” tells us that humans are fundamentally disgraced and either need to earn God’s forgiveness (works righteousness) or wait for a capricious God to choose them. On the other hand we have “no news” with the idea that God simply made all things good and there is no particular need for Christian salvation. Both of these ideas have become popular and I don’t think either really reflects the Gospel. So what is the “good news’?
I would say that the good news has to do with re-creation, or better yet, with continuous creation. God made each one of us to grow into “the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ.” We are growing – and that is our natural state. Just as a farmer plants a seed and waters it, so God created us and nourishes us by grace. We may grow in grace or ignore it, and if we ignore it we die. One of my favorite speakers, Katharine Jefferts Schori (Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church) once compared the life of the church to marine biology. Everything, she said, grows and changes. And that which does not is already rotting (so it’s changing too).
I believe that God continuously creates the world. We have the opportunity to grow into the new creation in every moment. We have the opportunity to stay still.
If we stay still then the earth is made new and we fall behind. We become out of step. It’s something like the physical process of entropy – it takes energy to maintain order. If you don’t invest new energy at every moment, you start to fall apart, or as the Red Queen said, you must run constantly to stay in the same place. This constant running may be the way God made the universe, or it may be a result of human folly. In any case, we find ourselves in need of effort just to stay where we are.
God supplies the energy (grace) by which we are able not only to keep our place, but to grow. Likewise, God redeems (for himself and from entropy) the investment made in humanity at creation. We are redeemed from sin and the law, yes, but we are redeemed for the fullness of life offered in the resurrection. I choose to preach the resurrection (and redemption in the eternal now) over salvation from death, because it speaks of what we are redeemed for – which seems far more interesting that what we are redeemed from. Still, it is a meaningful question.
I think we are redeemed from ourselves – from being solely ourselves and only ourselves. I think we are redeemed from a world and a morality where every fault is justly punished and every virtue justly rewarded. Such a law can only keep the status quo; it can never make a better world. I think we are redeemed from sin, where sin means missing the mark or falling short, because God is ever ahead of us, calling us onward.
We are redeemed, not like a lottery ticket (something for nothing), but like a bond, an investment God makes in creation. We cannot cause our own maturity, but we can accept the grace of God, by which we grow into the fullness of our created being, the fullness of Christ.