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Longing for Redemption

by Abi Foerster on April 30, 2024

"And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born of your father's remorse.  Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself.  And that, I believe, is what true redemption is... when guilt leads to good."  (The Kite Runner, p. 302)

If you redeem yourself, you make up for wrongs by doing something that makes you seem good again, like when after being irritable and snappy with your best friend, you redeem yourself by bringing her flowers and apologizing.  The word redeem comes from the French rédimer, which means "to deliver," and which in turn comes from the Latin for "buy back." 

Likewise, redemption is the act of having freedom purchased or wholeness restored through a significant payment.  In a broader sense, redemption can also relate to the idea of making amends or finding salvation or renewal in various aspects of one’s life, such as relationships, personal struggles, or societal issues.

Consider some of the ways we use the word redeem and redemption in our cultural context:

  • We redeem a gift card – we receive the gift of someone else’s payment.
  • A family experiences redemption when their goods are returned after a robbery.
  • A home mortgage that is fully paid off is considered redeemed.
  • Prisoners of war are redeemed from being enslaved by their captors and repatriated.
  • When you turn in a glass bottle for recycling, you redeem it, just as you redeem a coupon for 20% off your next hamburger.

Redemption is a prominent theme in our culture’s stories, news, and art.  Novels, poems, and movies frequently weave stories of redemption – books like The Kite Runner, Les Misérables, and A Christmas Carol come to mind, as well as Shawshank Redemption and Star Wars.   It’s not uncommon for the evening news to feature the comeback story of a fallen sports hero, politician, or actor who has redeemed their selfish or immoral ways.

Home restoration shows demonstrate physical redemption; dramas capture the power of redemptive relationships, and we hear the soundtrack of Johnny Cash’s Hurt or Bob Marley’s Redemption Song playing in our mind (both are powerful – take a moment to listen!).

We seem to naturally understand our own brokenness and so we are attracted to the themes of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.

As human beings made in God’s image yet wrecked by our own sin and the brokenness of the world, we are hard-wired to long for redemption.  As C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we find in ourselves a desire for which there is no worldly satisfaction, the most reasonable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Of course, redemption is first and foremost the work of God to restore his people to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Galatians 4:4 – 5 reminds us that “God sent his Son… to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption.”  This means that as we place our trust in Christ through the Holy Spirit and are walking with him day by day, we find ourselves in a new eternal family – fully redeemed, fully restored in right relationship with God, which then hopefully leads to redemption and restoration with others and ourselves. 

The good news is that Jesus doesn’t just make us a little bit better.  He doesn’t improve our already-pretty-good health and spirituality. No, before Christ we were condemned, lonely, and cut off from God but now Jesus makes us righteous, whole and restored in full relationship – with a place at the family table; and beloved, Jesus is sharing the best meal we’ve ever eaten!  May we experience freedom and the assurance of God’s grace to truly live a redeemed life.


Luke 4:16 – 21

Questions for Reflection

  • In Luke 4, Jesus said that he came to set prisoners free. Do you consider yourself a prisoner of sin?  What reminds you, or makes you forget?
  • Think about the redemption you have experienced in Christ. What would it look like to live in Christ’s freedom?  What would you do differently when you wake up tomorrow?
  • How do you think your own journey of faith – your story of change and transformation – could encourage and challenge others? How do you think God is inviting you to share this story with others?


Holy God, help us to better understand who you are, why you sent your Son, Jesus, and who we are in him.  Let us discover the depth and beauty of our redemption – the complete freedom we have in Christ.  May we be able to share one day our story of change with others.  Amen.

Tags: love, redemption, redeem, vespers