Quinn G. Caldwell
"God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of God's beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." - Colossians 1:9-14
When was the last time you heard the word "redeem" outside of church?
Whenever it was, I'm willing to bet it had something to do with coupons. Which is actually sort of what Paul's talking about here. To redeem something means to pay a debt that's owed on it. When you take your coupon to the store, we say you're redeeming that coupon; actually, it's the store that's redeeming it when they give you your 10% off.
Paul's claim is that whatever sins you've committed have built up a debt, and that Jesus has paid it off. Christianity's party line for some time now has been that the debt you owe is death, and that Jesus paid that debt off by his own death. Maybe—but perhaps there's another way to think of it.
At root, sin is about spending our lives on things that are not worth spending our lives on. Spend enough of your life on the wrongs things, and it can start to seem like you owe your life to them. Maybe what Jesus does is to give us a purpose, holy and high, to which we can devote ourselves when we sicken of being in thrall to lesser purposes. Maybe he redeems us not by paying off a debt, but by showing us that we don't actually owe our sins anything. That we have in fact always been free to walk away from them and back home to God.
Maybe redemption is finding something—someOne—worth spending your life on.
God, don't let me or the world trick me into believing I owe anything to anyone but you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.