It is as if somewhere in our consciousness we know that we were meant for something greater, yet we continue to decay both inside and out, inevitably heading towards that which we strive to avoid, our death. Surely there is more to our lives then being tormented by a past we would rather forget. And surely there is a way that we can experience that feeling of being set free from death's demand.
Here's a key idea: so often we imagine what that feeling would be like as themes of grace and redemption are found in the most touching expressions of human creativity. For example, in Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables', Bishop Bienvenue offers his silverware to the ex-convict, Jean Valjean in exchange for Valjean to become an honest man. A single act of grace released Valjean's chains of hatred, regret, and anger.
The bishop (Bienvenue) states that by offering his silverware to a man driven by hate and mistrust, he 'purchased his soul for God', allowing him 'to emerge as one of the noblest characters in literature' (Doris Donnelly). We rejoice with the protagonists in classic films such as 'Ben-Hur', 'The Shawshank Redemption', and 'The Kite Runner', as each manages to find restoration and experience freedom from the torment of their past.
So the question must be asked: Why do we identify so strongly with the notion of being redeemed?
A desire to be restored
I believe that deep inside every human being, a desire to be restored exists because we no longer experience the utter completion and fullness of life that was once intended for us. When the Almighty God created humanity, he created us in his own image. He created us to dwell with him - to live in perfect unity and harmony with Him and the world that He had created.
Classic orthodoxy teaches that because of humanity's disobedience towards God in the Garden of Eden - that perfect relationship and unity was severed - and sin entered the world. Sin became humanity's ever present and irremovable cancer - a disease that would always satisfy death's demand. This demand of death was never supposed to exist, but Almighty God in his perfection could not allow such a disease to last forever in a world that he had created for His own glory and satisfaction.
Death became the ultimate conclusion to all that was broken in the world. However, God's desire for our restoration, our freedom, and our unity with Him was, and still is beyond death's demand.
I believe that because we are still made in the image of God - albeit an image corrupted by the disease of sin, we are born with that same desire for restoration, freedom, and unity - for redemption. As a result, everything we see and experience in this world is a mere shadow of what it could be, of what it was originally designed to be.
It is as if, as J.R.R. Tolkien puts it: "We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile." Whether criminal or saint, we know that something more complete is out there, something that will absolve us of all our past regrets and cancerous sin with which we are born.
It is all of God in classic orthodoxy. In a single and ongoing act of grace, God's desire for our redemption birthed his only Son. Through him, God became human flesh, capable of fully embracing our diseased humanity while still remaining pure and righteous in the sight of His father.
Christ Jesus, both fully God and fully man, was driven by His father's desire for restoration so passionately that he offered his own perfect life as the ultimate payment for death's demand. In that instant, all those who accepted God's gift of redemption were set free of sin - both the tormenting sin of the past, and the cancerous sin with which they were born.
Like the act of grace that unshackled Valjean and allowed him to become an honest man, Christ's sacrifice allows us to become the free and redeemed humanity that God originally created. The acceptance of this gift can see the end to our quest for restoration that exists within us.
It is the at the Cross! Whether the criminal who found redemption at the cross where Christ died (at Calvary), or the saint who found redemption before being martyred for his belief, all can find restoration and freedom at the cross.
This is a wonderful affirmation to the start of 2014 as the Scriptures exclaim this in Colossians 1 verses 20-22:
And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html