Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christ, Our Redeemer

Christ as Redeemer. It’s a tough concept to wrap my head around sometimes. As God comes again and again into my life to set me free, I find it hard to live redeemed. Hard to live without worry, without fear, without stressing myself out over every little difficulty, every failure. Hard to not wait for the other foot to drop or look for the loophole that allows the goodness of God to fall by the wayside as some cruel joke of the universe.

But as tough as it is to live redeemed, I’m fairly comfortable with the idea of what it means to be redeemed – to be bought, paid for, set free, restored, renewed, and blessed. What, though, does this say of Christ’s role as Redeemer?

To many, perhaps to most, it means He has redeemed us as slaves. He has paid the price for our freedom and loosened us from the mastery of sin and flesh in our lives. He’s given us our walking papers, set us upon a new trail, become a new master – a master without the heavy hand of a hard man but instead with grace and mercy and respect.

Until recently, I would have agreed with this picture. It certainly is beautiful. The God of the Universe cashed in an “All for the price of One” coupon and bought back each individual bonded into slavery. He set us free. On the broadest, most impersonal of scales, this still works for me. That is, it works for the world, for the earth.

What, though, of the ache in the heart that longs for a personal intimacy with the Redeemer? What does an All-for-One coupon say to that?

Nothing. Or at least, very little.

Luckily, the Scriptures have an answer, one that allows me to relate in a new way to Christ, my Redeemer, and one I am ashamed to say I missed for too long.

When the Bible talks about redeemers, it seldom mentions slavery. It seldom mentions those belonging to others, sold and bought for a price, set free without much to their names but the papers to legitimize it all.

No, the Bible speaks most often of “family redeemers.” What in the world does that mean?

Family was the strongest bond in the Bible. You were nothing without your family, and it was this network of relatives that provided not only your worth but your financial and social security, your standing. Your family provided for your most basic needs. This is why men and women longed for marriage, and women facing barrenness prayed fervently for God to open their wombs.

It was more than love or closeness; it was truly a matter of life and death.

If a male died with no offspring to care for his wife, responsibility fell to his relatives – brother, father, uncle, nephew, whoever – to take her in and care for her. If a father died with an unmarried daughter, her uncle or brother took her in. In the case of Ruth and Naomi, it was Ruth’s in-law who became her family redeemer after the death of her husband, her brother-in-law, even her father-in-law (not necessarily in that order). Without Boaz, she had no one.

Boaz explains the whole concept of the redeemer to Ruth. He’s not first in line; there is one other male who has first rights of redeeming her. That guy is not interested, cannot for whatever reason marry her, so Boaz is free to lend his services. It is this exchange that introduced me to a new concept of redeemer: the family redeemer.

Unlike the man who redeems a slave, a family redeemer does more than pay the price for freedom. He does more than provide a set of papers and the chance at a new life.

He provides everything.

Boaz takes Ruth, marries her, sleeps with her, provides her offspring, provides her food and nourishment, work, labor, allows her to work in the fields. He has taken care of her most basic needs, re-established a line of succession to care for her future needs, and yes, even invited her back into the family through this new marriage.

All this for an in-law!

This is where my hope lies, in the beauty of the family redeemer. Aren’t we all in-laws to God? Isn’t there one degree of separation – sin – that keeps us from being fully His? Yet, He still redeems us.

He redeems us not in the sense of buying our freedom. Indeed, He is our Family Redeemer – bringing us fully back into the family through new relationship with Him, providing our nourishment and immediate needs, blessing us with the offspring (fruits of the Spirit, discipline, joy, grace, mercy, forgiveness) to fulfill our future needs, securing our role and place in society through purpose and good standing, and so much more. It’s more than just our walking papers. It’s more than setting us free.

It’s setting us free…with benefits. We are not freed and left standing in the square to wonder, “What now?” “Gee, God, this is great and all, but where do I go from here?”

We are free with the gifts of the future. We are free with new love, new relationship, new life, and every possible concern already met. We are free with the food and drink for today and the fields to harvest for tomorrow.

We are redeemed.

Christ is our Redeemer.

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