Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Redemption Was Here

Image result for was here shawshank brooks
From the Movie "The Shawshank Redemption"

Two years ago I spoke at Marion (Ohio) Correctional Institution, to 175 inmates about redemption and freedom. This is Ohio's largest prison, and was formerly the "Shawshank Prison." They are next to one another. How strange it was for me to see Shawshank after having watched the movie a few hundred times. I kept expecting to see Andy or Red or the warden walk around the corner.

Redemption. What a beautiful word! My church family is called "Redeemer." 

"Redeemer," "redeem," "redemption," "redemptive" - all refer to the movement out of bondage and slavery, into freedom. Like "The Shawshank Redemption."

Yes, Andy and Red finally get free from the prison's physical constraints. But the movie is really about inner freedom, and release from inner demons that torment and imprison the soul. That's the beauty of this movie. That's the longing of every human heart. And that's what, sadly, "Brooks" never got free of.

After I finished speaking at Marion Correctional Institution, one of the inmates asked me to pray for him.

"Would you pray for me," he asked.


"Pray that I could forgive myself."

I will.

"Because I can't forgive myself for killing my parents."

I will pray for this, for you.

Here was a tormented man looking for redemption. I, and some other inmates, surrounded him, and bathed him in the healing waters of redemptive prayer.

The apostle Paul writes, in 1 Corinthians 1:30: "It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." In this stunning statement the claim is that Christ does not merely bring redemption to us, but Christ is our redemption. What can that mean?

Andrew Murray writes that the word "redemption" refers to our "complete and final deliverance" from the consequences of sin. The redemptive being of Christ not only is our soul's freedom, but our physical body's freedom as well. To say that Christ is our redemption "points us to the highest glory to be hoped for in the future, and therefore also to the highest blessing to be enjoyed in the present in Christ." (Murray, ch. 10, Abide in Christ)

The redemptive activity of Christ brings full-being freedom to us. Experiencing this reality is available, not only in the future, but now. Redemption... now. Isn't that the heart-cry of every prisoner? Isn't this the only hope for the inmate who killed his parents?

Redemption Now overcomes, in us, the fear of our failures, and our soon-to-be death. Murray writes: "The believer who abides in Christ as his full redemption, realizes even now his spiritual victory over death... The resurrection of the body is no longer a barren doctrine, but a living expectation, and even an incipient experience, because the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in the body as the pledge that even our mortal bodies shall be quickened (Rom.8:11-23)." (Ib.)

This is not mere theory, but experiential reality, flying in the face of the atheistic approach to death as exemplified by, for example, Julian Barnes. I have been with many people as they were dying, and as they died. I've known many who lived their human lives as branches connected to a Vine (AKA Christ). In such people I see hope, and expectation that is not of their own creating. It's Christ in them, the hope of glory. In Christ there is life. Life Now.

The Pauline claim that Christ is our redemption defeats any idea that Jesus' redemptive work lies only in the past, or only awaits us in the future. When we accept the invitation to "abide in Jesus," we know life in an experiential way, like the person who knows how to ride a bike, and then goes for a ride.

At the end of The Shawshank Redemption Andy communicates with Red. Here is Red, reading Andy's letter.

Andy Dufresne [in a letter to Red]: 

Dear Red. If you're reading this, you've gotten out. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don't you?

Red: Zihuatanejo.

Andy Dufresne: I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I'll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well. Your friend. Andy.
If you've read this far, maybe you'd like to come a little further.

If you are interested in Jesus, maybe you'd like to know more.

If so, then step into Christ. Know Christ.

He's your Redeemer now and tomorrow.

Carve these words on your soul: Redemption was here.

I hear prison doors opening...