Diremption Redemption, Part 3

Life is a continual process of little (and occasionally larger) failures interspersed with little (and occasionally larger) successes, and we can call it “redemption” every time any success follows any failure, but there is a deeper and wider sense of the word.
We speak of redeeming our honor, or reputation – by doing something particularly exemplary or by clearing ourselves of a charge against us.
We speak of redeeming a coupon – by exchanging it for a product. You redeem your mortgage by paying it off, redeem your obligations by carrying them out, and redeem your possessions by recovering them.

“Redemption” comes from the Latin, rudimere, "to buy back." We can see that root concept at work in the various current uses of the word.

In particular, the original usage primarily meant buying back one’s freedom. Slaves who could manage to raise enough money could buy themselves and become free. Redemption is about emancipation, regaining our native freedom. The picture above is from the 1994 movie, “The Shawshank Redemption.” It’s about how Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, is redeemed – gets back his freedom.

In Jewish theological history, “redemption” centrally refers to God redeeming the Israelites from various exiles: God buys them back and restores them to freedom in their own land, the land promised to them. From this idea of deliverance from exile grew the Christian concept of deliverance from sin. Redemption buys back our freedom and releases us from the shackles of sin.

Elwin Wilson, who once battered John Lewis, is redeemed insofar as, apology, forgiveness, reconciliation, and his new efforts to help end racial hatred, deliver him from his bondage to prejudice – free him. The man Gandhi advised may, if he follows through on adopting Muslim boy and raising him as Muslim, thereby become free, liberated from bondage to his violence and hatred.

I can speak to you as a man who did find a child – about this high – of a different religion, different culture, different language. Yency Contreras was 17-years-old when LoraKim and I met him while offering worship services at his detention facility in El Paso. He had come from Honduras, enduring a harrowing three weeks of rides on the tops of train cars: very hazardous because fatigue, wind, and jostling sometimes led to falling off, and when it did the person might be pulled under the train wheels, losing limbs or life. That was ten years ago. Yency is now 27, as of 2011 a US citizen, and as of just three months ago, a graduate of the University of Central Florida. He got a criminal justice degree and is looking for a job as a police officer.

Our relationship through the years has been many things. LoraKim and I were not called upon, as the man with Gandhi, to actively raise him in a different faith – he had already been mostly raised in a different faith. Our task was rather easier. I have, though, had to grow accepting of the Pentecostal faith he has maintained on his own. Learning to love him -- even though I thought the teachings of his church were vicious nonsense -- was transformative. It freed me from certain of my prejudices, and has been, to that extent, redemptive.

In what ways are you exiled from the inheritance of joy and belonging that is our birthright? To what are you in bondage? What is the price to pay for liberation, for return into our own, for realizing ourselves?

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This is part 3 of 4 of "Diremption Redemption."
Next: Conclusion.
Previous: Part 2.
Beginning: Part 1.

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