While I was still in high school, I worked part-time at a “Frontier Savings Stamp” redemption center in Roswell, NM. People would come in and say they wanted to redeem the stamps they were given at the grocery store. They were pasted in a book, we would count them, and then we would tell which items they were eligible for. Little did I know at that time what redeem and redemption meant other than saving stamps.

Psychologist Alex Lickerman defined redemption this way: Whenever a news story breaks about someone committing a terrible crime, we may wonder about the possibility of redemption and how it can be achieved. We may also wonder if most of us don’t carry around some secret harm we once did to someone, the type of harm that, if we allow ourselves to ponder over it, risks losing faith in our own goodness and even the health of our self-esteem.

Dr. Lickerman goes on to ask, “Why did we do what we did? Was it for self-gain or because we were trying to do what we thought was right and either inadvertently or regretfully injured the person we were trying to help?” If the latter, we must embrace the fact that our intentions were good and that sometimes the most compassionate action looks, and even is, more harmful than good. We may find ourselves tripped up in our attempts to reach this perspective by the complicated situation in which we acted, finding it sometimes hard to figure out exactly how pure-hearted our intentions were. But if we can focus on those intentions rather than on their results, we may learn we have nothing to regret at all. In this case, you’ve redeemed your self-esteem.

Then licensed clinical social worker Linda, and her master of social work husband Charlie Bloom, write about longing for redemption. They say that to the degree that early unhealed wounds and unmet childhood needs we carry into adulthood, we seek someone with the power, even the responsibility to rescue us from the remaining pain from these experiences by providing us, finally, with the quality of love that we never received. What we desire from this person is love that is healing, affirming, all-encompassing, unconditionally accepting, and empowering—in short, salvation.

They go on to say that this then is the redemptive longing; the hope of being saved once and for all from the inherent suffering in a life in which we feel ourselves to be unworthy of real love, which is by nature, unconditional. All too often, relationships that begin with dreams of divine bliss deteriorate into the hell of unrelenting frustration, bitterness, and unfulfilled longing. The person whom we had hoped would keep us from suffering becomes the source of excruciating emotional pain. What we gain from this is redemption from being ignored as unneeded or unworthy of love.

To this, we add the thoughts of Canadian clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, Jordan Peterson, who starts by noting that some people are possessed by a question and its part of our nature to ask, “Why are we looking for redemption?” People often ask themselves this question in relation to their circumstances as they search for meaning and to understand what it might mean. But they also might ask themselves, “Why do I feel redemption is needed?” It is uncharacteristic of animals; they don’t seem to question their existence. There is something about the very nature of human beings that makes them feel as if something needs to be set right. When that has been discussed historically, it’s been associated with the term redemption. People are in need of redemption. In this case, it is redemption from always feeling bad about things that we did to others.

However, a group of Christian psychologists from Wheaton College has this to say,[1] What is a professional psychologist to do when a client brings up the concept of sin? To some, sin may seem like a depressing religious relic that has no place in contemporary psychology. But viewing sin from within the Christian faith, and linked with the doctrine of grace, psychologists can better understand why sin is such an important concept for many of their Christian clients. The misunderstanding by many Psychologists about sin and grace may contribute to relatively low rates of referral from Christian leaders to secular clinical psychologists, and may sometimes hinder therapeutic progress.

They go on to tell us that for many throughout the world, certain forms of emotional anguish are handled by going to confession where a priest offers the sacrament of reconciliation. Others go to professional psychologists to learn behavioral, mental, or relational strategies to live healthier lives. If the story ended here, with a clear junction between religion and psychology, then both clergy and professional

psychologists would have simpler jobs – and those seeking their help, simpler choices – than is currently the case. The dividing line is not so clear, however. Religious leaders end up seeing people with significant mental health issues, and professional psychologists work with those facing religious and spiritual questions. In earlier times, the fuzzy distinction between religion and psychology caused conflict and vigorous debate among clinicians.

After reading this, we can almost hear the Apostle Paul crying out, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will redeem me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” [2] In the Christian faith, redemption is based upon the early teachings of the Israelites as revealed to them by God. It involved how a person who was taken captive by a foreign power could be redeemed and brought back home. That redemption always involved paying a ransom, often of an enormous price. Furthermore, only a fellow Israelite, and preferably, a member of the tribe or family was considered eligible to pay that price.

God gave Isaiah a lesson on redemption to share with the Israelites. He told Isaiah to tell them: “Thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” [3] But time and time again, God would need to remind them, “I have taken away the dark cloud of your wrong-doings, and removed the heavy fog of your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you and set you free.” [4]

No wonder the Psalmist exclaimed, “He sent redemption to His people; He stamped His covenant as everlasting. Holy and awesome is His name![5] O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.[6] Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.[7]

For centuries Israel waited for redeemers. God redeemed them from Egypt through Moses at the cost of a lamb for every Hebrew family. But God told them that He would send another Redeemer in the pattern of Moses, and He would be called the Messiah.[8] Then God used Jeremiah to redeem the exiled Jews in Persia to return back to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.[9] But still, they awaited the promised Messiah to redeem them from all foreign powers so they could rule themselves as God’s people.

Then the Messiah came! It was because God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son born of a woman so that all who believe in Him would not die without hope but have everlasting life.[10] Unfortunately, when He arrived, the Jews refused to recognize and accept Him as the Messiah.[11]

However, God called one of His worst enemies, Saul of Tarsus, to go out into the world as the Apostle Paul and tell them there were justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in the Anointed One Jesus, whom God put forward as a ransom by His blood be received by faith.[12] As the Apostle Peter put it, “Knowing that you were redeemed from the useless ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of the Anointed One, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

So the next time you become unsure as to your salvation, or doubts creep into your mind of whether or not God really loves you or wants you as one of His own, just remember that you have been redeemed and that the Redeemer who paid the ransom price for your freedom is standing by to help you remain free from those awful chains that held you bound to ways that were offensive to God. Just look up and tell the Lord that you know you’ll make it all the way because you have been redeemed. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Mark R. McMinn, Janeil N. Ruiz, David Marx, J. Brooke Wright, and Nicole B. Gilbert

[2] Romans 7:24

[3] Isaiah 43:1

[4] Ibid. 44:22

[5] Psalm 111:9

[6] Ibid. 130:7

[7] Ibid. 107:2

[8] Deuteronomy 18:15

[9] Ezra 1:1-4

[10] John 3:16

[11] Ibid. 1:10-12

[12] Romans 3:24; See Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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