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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Why We Love Redemption, but Hate God


Think back to the last movie, book, or TV series you finished. Tangled up in all the drama and theatrics of the contemporary Netflix scene, chances are that you enjoyed a story of redemption. Humans have included tales of redemption as part of their storytelling for centuries. The satisfaction of an evil character suddenly turned good, star-crossed lovers getting a second chance, or stories of forgiveness and acceptance seem to dominate the entertainment landscape. We love when singers and actors speak openly about their past with drugs, alcohol, and eating disorders because they are images of triumph, someone who has overcome the past, healed, and emerged ‘redeemed’ for the better. The most popular TV shows feature real people telling stories of how they overcame terrible odds and triumphed in the face of despair, loss, and defeat.

Personal redemption is understood most broadly as the reclamation of self, rediscovery, or of the realization that a better version of ourselves exists, and that we can come into that ‘lost’ identity. Often in our literature and films, redemption comes through someone else. Perhaps a friend joins a suffering protagonist and encourages them to turn their life around or help them heal. Redemption can also come as a character pulls themselves together and presses onward by sheer will and determination to be better, either for themselves or for a loved one. The character’s identities often shift from drug-addicted to millionaire, hopeless romantic to fearless lover, or weak peasants to mighty warriors. Stories of redemption are all around us, whether that redemption comes from within or from somewhere external, thus we are drawn to people that have a redemption story.

When Christians step back and consider redemption, I wonder what they think. I’m moving outside of myself for a bit to examine where we derive our will to improve, to heal, ultimately, to be redeemed. I personally think of putting aside bad habits, letting go of past mistakes, moving on from regrets, and committing to greater amounts of humility. I would venture to guess that we all have a similar list of ways that we would like our lives to be redeemed. Maybe in a spiritual sense we would like to be more loving, more forgiving, more compassionate, or more generous. These “spiritual” qualities are outside of ourselves in that they primarily serve others before providing any sort of inner peace. This longing to be a better version of ourselves is fundamentally human, naturally occurring, and present in all people throughout history. In some ways, it feels as though we are hardwired for ‘better’. Regardless of how the feeling may manifest, we’re made to desire the redemption of our whole soul.

One of the great stresses of human life is that we will all eventually run out of time. One day the ‘rat race’ will end, diets will prove useless, productivity will screech to a halt, relationships will fail, and we’ll be lowered six feet under along with the 106 billion people before us. We’re tempted to look at the lives of those around us, compare, contrast, and then pick and choose tactics to make our individual life the one well-lived. We all want to be remembered. Many people stake their entire lives on the memories and legacy that will be left behind. Families, accomplishments, words: all of these things will either be celebrated or forgotten. Our kids will hopefully be better off, and the world might just be a little bit nicer. This is the narrow goal of redemption for billions of people all over the world.

If the illusion of redemption sounds bleak, it’s because it is. Redemption was never meant to stem from inward acts of self-discovery. The real motor of redemption was never designed to find its home in reclaimed identities or in the creation of new personal “normals”. When we redefine what we are to be, based on what we already are, we get trapped by what we’ve always been. Hear me out.

“When we redefine what we are to be, based on what we already are, we get trapped by what we’ve always been.”

The need for human redemption means that there is something within us that must be redeemed. There is brokenness, something incomplete and not whole, a void, or something innate to us that must be drawn out. Here, we get sucked into a lie. It’s a lie that we’ve believed for thousands of years, and will continue to believe for thousands more: that brokenness, if it is honest enough, can fix itself. It doesn’t work. Run to whatever fad, trend, drug, status, identity, or get-help-now book you want, and you’ll still finish wanting. A broken vase can’t repair itself. Why do we believe that broken people can fix themselves? Cheap, temporary fixes for real inward realities will always yield cheap and temporary redemption. The illusion of redemption is that when we try to be our own redeemer, when we let introspection define for us what we ought to be, either by seeing what we are not, or guessing at what we are, we will come up with the same results. The cycle of striving for self-redemption is futile, and ultimately deadly.

Luckily, Christians that believe in God’s blueprint for humanity can see between the lines. The longing for redemption that God has placed in all of His creation is undeniable. People feel the longing for redemption everywhere, and crave the temporary fixes and cheap success stories of those who claim to have achieved it. And here is where God either matters not, or matters infinitely. God is either committed fully to this deeply human desire, or He is not God at all. For God to be committed to something, and to fail, would be to debunk Himself as God. Redemption, as designed by God, and the longing for restoration that He has placed within us all is not realized through a re-discovery of self-truth, but through a re-ordering and re-prioritization of our whole self. This is what God does: He reaches down, and says, “I made this, I know how it works”. God is the great troubleshooter. If you want to know about yourself, ask the one who made you. He’s infinitely wiser than the Apple Geniuses and more devoted to His people than the Queen of England. If God is God, and we are His, then it’s time to pay attention.

We love redemption but hate God by the way that we reject God in the pursuit of redemption. God isn’t “the best way to get better”, He’s the only way. We’ve already established that broken vases can’t fix themselves, and so for broken people. God is interested in re-ordering our desires, re-orienting our priorities, and re-constructing our hearts in such a way that the most deeply broken parts of ourselves are stripped apart, and we are re-born from the inside-out. We get angry and hostile toward God and the Bible when it tells us how to think, feel, and live, but that’s the whole point! We need a manual. The instructions for life and the prescription for health are not found within our broken selves. Ask Steve Jobs, ask Dawkins, and in due time, ask Oprah. If she’s honest, positive thinking, smiling people, and great diets will have only gotten her so far. We have over 100 billion test cases to confirm this as the truth.

God is deeply committed to your inward and outward redemption. Above all things He is devoted to His people, madly in love with His creation, and hard-set on making us more like Him. Not demi-gods with fistfuls of lightening, but people after God’s own heart. We love redemption but hate God because we want what the heart wants, and It’s not God. Our souls cry out for God but our heart is corrupt. Jon Bloom, in his book, “Don’t Follow Your Heart”, remarks, “‘Follow your heart’ is a creed embraced by billions. It’s a statement of faith in one of the great pop-cultural myths of our day — a gospel proclaimed in many of our stories, movies, and songs. Until you consider that your heart has sociopathic tendencies. Our hearts were never designed to be followed, but to be led. Our hearts were never meant to be gods in whom we believe, but to believe in God.”

Redemption comes here, at the point where, in crying out to God, you cast away the lie that you can redeem yourself, and present with open hands, your heart for God to lead.

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    Jack EbmeierOct 2, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Excellent article Brady. What would you say to a person who would argue that they don’t need God or a religion to create a working moral code?

  • AnonymousOct 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm


  • Taylor EltonSep 27, 2017 at 2:19 pm


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Why We Love Redemption, but Hate God