The Redemption

The Hero sits on the hilltop and stares into the distance. There he spies the end of his journey… and the place of his enemy’s power. He knows what success in his quest will cost him. But he will not stop. There is no argument that can dissuade him, no appeal that can turn him aside, and now power of man or beast that can stand in his way.

Because, you see, what he stands to gain – who he stands to gain – is worth everything to him. She literally means more than life itself to him. And he will stop at nothing to win her back.

* * * * *

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:51 (ESV)

* * * * *

Ever since the day our first father, Adam, abandoned his bride to temptation, sin, and death, his sons have repeated his cowardice and failure. The record of humanity attests to the weakness of men, more likely to fall prey to lust, to laziness, to drunkenness, to greed and warmongering and powermongering, than to rise up in strength to fight for the girl and lay everything on the line to be her lover and defender.

Yet, within us is the sense that we were made for something more. We love the stories of the hero who gets the girl because we all want to be that guy. We want to rise up, strong and passionate, and claim what is ours. We want to save the day and get the pats on the back and hear the girl say, “My hero!”

But most of the time we don’t. We get disappointment. Heartbreak. Dishonor. Shame. We are not the heroes. And all our longing to be the hero really just serves to remind us that we, too, need to be saved.

But there is a Hero, a truer and greater man than any of us. Knowing full well that it would cost him his life, Jesus went boldly to the cross to offer himself as a sacrifice that paid for sin, defeated his Enemy, the Devil, and shattered the power of death. He did all this to win back the girl – his Bride, the Church. “It is his finished!” was his triumphant cry and he struck the final blow that ended the conflict once and for all.

* * * * *

“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:6-7, NIV)

* * * * *

Like every good epic story, as the fog of battle cleared he strode victorious back out of the fight, alive and well. This is our Redeemer, our Hero.

And here’s the twist: He doesn’t bask in the glow of victory alone, but raises us up to victory with him. He makes us heroic. He equips us to rise up with him and set our own faces for the battles we have to fight, not because we must earn our own glory but because we share in his glory.

* * * * *

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22, NIV).

* * * * *

This is redemption.

Longing for Redemption

Out to the well again. Out in the heat of the day again. Alone. Again.

I know I don’t have anyone to blame by myself, but it still hurts. When your choices are the critical glares and sarcastic comments or the lonely march out to the well at midday, I guess it’s better to be alone than abused.

Funny. I get that with my social life. Why don’t I get it with my love life?

What happened to the little girl who dreamed of a nice marriage with a nice man, a home with some kids running around and the neighbors over for dinner once a week? What happened to the young woman who was ready to give herself in love to just one man?

Silly questions. I know what happened. Everyone knows what happened. Man number six knows what happened, and that’s probably why he’s afraid to make an honest woman out of me. 

Lord, how did I ever stray so far off the path? I’m so tired of being ashamed. 

Oh, Lord, there’s a man at the well…

* * * * *

It doesn’t usually happen that a wedding story leaves you heartbroken, but this one will. A young couple, with family and friends surrounding them, spoke their vows and celebrated their union. A little too much celebration, perhaps, as the groom was extremely inebriated when he and his new wife went to their room for the night. He ended up beating her up.

What is going on here? Well, after the police were called and she was interviewed, she admitted that she knew he had problems. This wasn’t the first time he had struck her. They’d been living together for some time, and while she’d been concerned about his anger, she thought that maybe getting married would change something.

Her longing for redemption was met with tragedy, like so many others in this fallen world. How many people have gone into a marriage in the hopes that it will finally bring them fulfillment, only to find themselves just as frustrated and lonely as they were before? How many have skipped marriage altogether and pursued fulfillment through sex, only to feel empty? And what about the many people who have never experienced romance and affection, who have long since resigned themselves to the notion that for them marriage is a fantasy?

* * * * *

“Go, call your husband and come back.”

My husband? Hah! What a joke. Which one? Of course, this guy doesn’t know about all that, and he doesn’t have to. It’s not of his business. “I have no husband.” It’s technically true. 

“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Whoah! How did he…? I mean… “Sir,”  *gulp*  “I can see that you are a prophet.”

* * * * *

There is this longing inside us all. It expresses itself through tales of romance and devotion, and epic stories of heroes who beat all odds and get the girl. But we all know those are just stories. They aren’t the way life really works. It doesn’t stop us from dreaming.

Back in the real world, we try to build the dream by researching what kinds of relationships are strongest and what skills and techniques will make for perfect unions. Nothing wrong with that, but it still comes up short, because what if we don’t do it right? What if the next idea sounds better? What if some psychologist tells me I’ll be happier alone? What if… what if… what if?

What if all of this is meant to tell me that something is fundamentally broken in the system and in all of us? What if this longing for redemption is to point me to a greater and more lasting source of fulfillment than the things of this life? What if the solution to all this world’s problems when it comes to marriage and relationships and sex and all of it can only be found my looking to something beyond these things?

* * * * *

Lord, I’m off my guard here. This conversation has gone in the strangest direction. Who ever thought would be standing at the well talking to a Jewish prophet about religion. 

But there’s something about the way he speaks. He gets it. And there’s no judgment. It’s like… he just wants me to know something. “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

“I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Breaking of Marriage and the Promise of Redemption

You had one job, Adam.

What’s that? Well, yes, I suppose you had more than one job all taken with all, but when it came to leading your family spiritually, you had just one job. One rule to follow, and to communicate to your family and your descendants for generations to come. Don’t eat the fruit.

Was it overly complex? Difficult to communicate? Hard to get the point across? When you and Eve were running through the garden, full of the joy and thrill of life and all its perfect pleasures, was there just no time to make it clear what was expected of the two of you?

No, that’s not right, is it? Because at that point you had no faults or failings, and there was nothing to hide. So what was it about that moment, Adam? What happened when it all came crashing down?

There you stood, right next to her, the most beautiful of all creation, a precious jewel wrought from your own body, hand crafted for you and given to you by the maker of the universe. Yours to care for. Yours to love. Yours to protect and defend.

There she stood, listening as a serpent lied to her about God, lied to her about God’s desires for you, lied to her about his dire warnings. Adam, your bride was being deceived and drawn into death right in front of your face. What were you doing?

Were you distracted? Watching the birds while your wife’s wings were being clipped? Or were you absorbed in the lies too, more interested in what you thought you would gain than in how it would harm her?

And what about when she actually reached out to take the fruit? Did you even think to intervene, to speak up? Or did your curiosity just get the better of you?

You had one job, Adam.

Don’t even try to make excuses like, “Her spiritual life is between her and God.” The next detail puts that argument to rest, doesn’t it? What did you do once she fell? Did you call her back? Did you stand up for her, try to plead for her somehow?

No, we both know what happened next. What excuses did you tell yourself?

“Well, everyone else in the world has already done it.”

“It’s a personal choice; it isn’t hurting anyone.”

“Just this once, just to find out. If I know, then I’ll know why it’s not good to do in the future.”

“It must not be that bad; there haven’t been any consequences yet.”

You had one job, Adam. And you failed. Miserably.

Worse, when you were called to account, what did you do? Did you man up and own up? No, you blamed her for your failure, as though it was her fault that you chose to sin. Unbelievable. So, what? Her choices are her own, but you aren’t responsible for yours? Are you really going to hold that line?

So now what, Adam?

I’ll tell you what…

I will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between the serpent’s offspring and hers; he will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will strike his heel.

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you.

With great compassion I will take you back.

As far as the east is from the west, so far will I separate your sins from you.

You had one job, Adam. You failed. So now I have a job to do.

And I will not fail.

For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.” – Isaiah 54:7

Does Marriage Need Redemption?

Supreme Court decisions regarding the state of marriage in our country are starting to become passe, which might explain why there isn’t nearly the amount of upset about the recent one as there has been with previous cases. Depending on where you fall on this issue, though, you may feel either that the institution of marriage is bleeding out, or you may feel that the state of marriage in our society has never been more hopeful. Or maybe you’re among the growing group of people that has completely given up on caring what the government and the courts say about marriage, and you’re interested solely in making of it what you believe is right.

Whatever your stance on the issues of politics and marriage, there are a few things we can’t ignore:

  • For every two couples that get married today, there is a couple somewhere getting a divorce. While this doesn’t quite imply the often quoted 50% divorce rate, it does amount to the expectation that about 41% of all first marriages will fail. That is a tragedy.
  • The number of couples living together outside of marriage has steadily increased for 20+ years. Virtually every graph you look at will tell the same story – more and more people are giving up on the idea of committing to one another before moving in together, and the number keeps going up.
  • The definition of the word “marriage” is changing. A word we used to think applied to a unique relationship, and required certain specific elements (like one male and one female and all that) now is much less specific, and we are seeing a constant stream of people eager to claim it to describe whatever relationship they feel strongest about. But when you force a word to mean anything you want it to mean, you drain it of meaning entirely.

For those of us who cherish traditional marriage and what it means, these facts alone can be a little disturbing, not to mention what we feel when we pile on things like pornography and erotica, overloaded schedules, and apathy.

I do believe marriage needs redemption.

But I don’t believe that all this is actually a new problem. I think it all goes back to the very first marriage, a marriage that was broken when two people believed a lie and turned away from truth. When a man who was supposed to defend his wife stood back and watched as she came under attack, and then let himself get dragged down as well. When they immediately began to blame each other for their own faults.

That’s when marriage really began to fall apart, when a system designed for perfect people was filled with only broken people.

And yet, I believe marriage can be redeemed. In fact, I believe it has been redeemed. And I believe that we can find that redemption for our own marriages, for marriage in our society, and I believe we can even find redemption through marriage.

How? Well, there’s a lot of ground to cover there. But as this week is leading up to Valentine’s Day, I can’t think of a better time to start the conversation. So during this week – and hopefully several weeks to follow – I want to talk about marriage and redemption, and I hope you’ll join the conversation.