Redemptive Not Reactive

Often our environment forces us to be reactive, because reactive is the easy path. Reacting is instinctive, inherently emotional, and probably not the wisest course. We can be taken aback by reacting. Over time, we become fixed to a constant state of “reacting” as daily practice.

We need to be intentional about our responses and work to develop redemptive solutions. We should slow down, take a breath, and calm our emotional reactions. Being redemptive moves us forward from mistakes and errors. Redemption comes from the Latin root, redimere, meaning “to get back” or “to buy back.” When we redeem, we gain something of value in exchange.

A redemptive state of mind is not an event, nor should it need to be a choice, but a way of living. Consistent redemptive actions work to promote inner change and spiritual growth. We become better through newfound compassion that feeds an energy force to transform society. Many people describe love as redemptive, healing even those who have stumbled.

A great example is parenting. Redemptive parenting is concerned with children learning life lessons. Whereas reactive parenting, focuses on time out and corrective measures, wasting the opportunity to teach and mentor. Reactive parenting can even compound the issue into something bigger than it needs to be. Redemption aims to be restorative or corrective in both the process and the end goal. Adopting a redemptive approach relies on offering second chances. It redeems a mistake.

In theory, “correctional” institutions seek to deter, alter, and reshape the harmful and criminal behaviors and actions of individuals who enter the system. It is meant to be a redemptive process. Unfortunately, it is more of a transactional process rather than a relational one. In a way it has become adversarial, pitting one side of the legal system against the other and only seeing the resolution. A redemptive process considers the person involved; their story from beginning, through the middle and including the end.

The criminal legal system is too often steered by a desire for vengeance, which serves no one. Vengeance is reactive, justice is redemptive. Vengeance is “retribution plus” – it tries to right wrongs by going beyond proportionality. Part of what is in the balance here are issues of humanity and honor. Redemption allows a more holistic approach – to create opportunities for growth and moving past the mistakes they made and the hurt they caused.

In 2000, 23-year-old Cornealious Anderson was arrested for robbing a Burger King at gunpoint. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, released on bail, and told to await orders on when to show up to serve his time. The orders never came. Due to a clerical error, Anderson never went to prison. But instead of using his freedom to commit more crimes, he chose a redemptive future. Anderson started his own construction business, became a youth football coach, and volunteered at his local church. He got married, had three children, and became a well-liked member of his community. Thirteen years later, the state discovered their error and put Anderson behind bars for nearly one year. After international news coverage, an online petition, and a mere 10-minute court hearing, the judge agreed that Anderson was a redeemed man and granted him credit for the years he should have been in prison.

The “redemption” in the movie Shawshank Redemption, refers to Red’s (Morgan Freeman’s character) prison de-institutionalization when he chooses to follow Andy (Tim Robbin’s character) after parole. Red becomes the truly emotional and redemptive center of the story as he is in more need of redemption because he’s actually guilty of his crime, compared to Andy. While the film has many “redemptions,” from Andy’s escape to Warden Norton being caught for money laundering, Red’s story is the main redemption because it’s a victory. Regardless of whatever the film presents in Andy’s story, it’s still told from Red’s perspective. Tellingly, after Andy escapes, the film doesn’t follow him to Mexico. It remains on Red.

The story of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah and the whale is about redemption. This piece of Scripture also shows Jonah’s humility and obedience to God, which helps him atone for his earlier refusal to listen to God. Here, God tells us that we are all worthy of redemption if we show repentance for our sins. However, Jonah is a book with a second redemption story, the story of Nineveh, a terribly wicked city. Yet, Jonah’s obedience, delayed as it was, results in the Ninevites’ drastic and sincere repentance, and God has mercy on this town full of repentant sinners just as He had mercy on Jonah.

There is much we can learn from the life of the apostle Paul. The story of Paul is a story of redemption in Jesus Christ and a testimony that no one is beyond the saving grace of the Lord. From his religious zeal, brutal violence, and the relentless persecution of the early church to his later years of living his life for Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. St Paul preached the redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ. Redemption that involved a price to be paid. When St Paul writes, ‘You have been bought at a price,’ he means that we Christians have been redeemed at the cost of Christ’s blood.

Another story of redemption with Paul is Ananias, the disciple in Damascus who cared for Paul through blindness. That was a redemptive act when reactive (wavering, hesitant, possibly rebellious) was likely Ananias first choice. Yet Ananias was faithful and obedient. God then uses Ananias’ to further His purposes in launching the most influential of the apostles. If it weren’t for Ananias, would we even have a St. Paul?

God purchased our freedom and freed us from our bondage to sin. He restored mankind to the state of grace by an act of divine power and merciful love, Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. This redemptive act spans the whole of man’s history from the time of his first sin and fall from grace.

As Christians, we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. We must pray like crazy for the redemptive love of God to be made manifest among us. Christian response should never be reactive, but redemptive.

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