As a society, we love the Cinderella stories, we cheer for the underdog and we are obsessed with makeovers. For a while, it was Extreme Makeover Home-Edition for me. I mean, Ty Pennington, a home makeover and helping a family in need… who doesn’t love that? Lately, I’ve been more of a Biggest Loser person. Granted, I eat brownies while I watch, but it’s still inspirational. Every week you get to see evidence of the contestants’ hard work and discipline. Maybe it’s just me, but I love celebrating the triumphs of someone who wasn’t expected to be triumphant. They are feel-good stories like these.
I believe we are drawn to such stories because we know, deep down inside, we were created for something more. The fifty dollar word theologians use to describe stories like these is “redemption”, and it’s a central key to the gospel.
Redemption stories remind us that the opportunity for a new life and a new way of thinking exists and is available to anyone willing to do the work necessary to overcome the obstacles that have hitherto kept them in the old life. They reveal a hope for change.
But the gospel isn’t about overcoming obstacles by sheer effort and will power. The gospel is a story of redemption and new life that is freely given. We cannot overcome the obstacle that stands between us and God, regardless of our best efforts. Our redemption is the result of Christ’s suffering.
Before Jesus put on skin, the prophet Isaiah was proclaiming how He would bring stories of redemption to everyone He encountered. In chapter 61 of Isaiah it says:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord;
they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
and in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
Everlasting joy, comforted mourners, beauty from ashes, garments of praise, freedom… makeovers of eternal significance. Redemption stories of lives changed from the inside out.
What are your favorite redemption stories?