I know what I did and I don’t want forgiveness… I don’t deserve it… I can’t bring Abner Easley back like he’s some stolen chicken; I certainly made sure of that 23 years ago. I don’t believe in some god who’s going to open his arms to me even if I did. … Which is why for me, I know I’ll never be redeemed. —Manual Jordan in the film Levity
Either we go through life hardly giving our sins a second thought, or we go through life so burdened down by their awful weight that we can think of nothing else.
My wife once told an aging relative about the forgiveness promised in the cross. “I don’t sin! I’m no criminal,” was the offended response. My wife pressed on, suggesting that even such things as gossip and envy are sins. “Those aren’t sins,” the relative replied. “Everybody does those.”
Some of us want nothing to do with redemption.
Manual Jordan kept a faded newspaper clipping on the wall of his prison cell, a picture of Abner Easley, the young man he had shot to death in an armed robbery, the young man who would never grow into adulthood. Jordon understood his sin, and not a day passed that he didn’t regret what he had done.
Some of us are desperate for redemption, but certain that no just God would ever grant it.
The disciples were looking for a king, not a redeemer. The crucifixion was not the ending they had expected, and it left them confounded and demoralized. They hid themselves in stunned disbelief, overwhelmed by grief and fear.
News of the resurrection was more shocking still. An empty tomb, a missing body, an angel announcing Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—they were forced to look afresh at everything Jesus had said, and early on they focused in on Isaiah 53:
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighted him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. —Isaiah 53:4-6, NLT
The path to Christian redemption goes through the shadows of the cross and exits in the sunlight of Easter’s open tomb.
I need that redemption. Jesus consistently taught that the trip-wire of sin is set very, very low to the ground. To insult someone in anger, Jesus said, is enough to condemn you before God. To merely think unkind thoughts is as damning as murder.
It isn’t just the Manual Jordans of the world who need redemption—it’s you; it’s me.
And it’s costly; but it’s free.
…we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins. The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. —Romans 5:16b-17, NLT
To be honest, I would rather find a way to earn my own redemption. I don’t like being indebted, to anyone. I’m proud. I like to do things for myself.
But my guilt is too great and the price is too high. I could wallow in my guilt, or I can swallow my pride and accept the priceless, freely-offered gift of forgiveness, redemption and hope in Jesus Christ.
It is almost unbearable, that grief I feel when I think of my sin and his innocent death for me.
My guilt would have crushed me, save for the unbearable lightness of his forgiveness, his redemption, his love.
Photo credit: Redemption by Leon Verdun