Redemption seems to be one of those religious words that is often used with the assumption that the reader/listener and the author are on the same page. In the past I have associated it with those televangelists who remind us that the sinner must be redeemed by Jesus’ blood in order to assure everlasting life.
When I referenced William Willimon’s book, United Methodist Beliefs, which in the past has been shared with individuals seeking membership in our Church, I found that he freely substitutes the term with “being saved” and salvation. Other synonyms include deliverance, rescue, restore and release.
With countless possibilities, I have often found the use of redemption vague and confusing, especially when it is associated with an after-life. I have come to link the concept with the here and now, as I attempt to follow Jesus’ path toward Kingdom building in our community and world. I see redemption more as transforming and liberating. An example has been my involvement with the Napa Circles Initiative, the antipoverty program which has been endorsed and supported by our congregation.
As I have developed relationships with the participants and increased my understanding of poverty and homelessness, I have begun to look at the plight of the poor through a different lens. You might say that my sight has been restored, my attitude rescued from our cultural stereotypes and prejudices of the less fortunate. More important, the Circle graduates’ lives will be redeemed! By providing them the tools to develop a plan and surrounding them with coaches and allies, they’ll be delivered from the bonds of poverty. Redemption….what a concept!