Posted July 2nd, 2009 by E. Goodman
If, during play, a child’s ball is punctured and begins to lose air, these are the steps to repairing it:
- Find the puncture
- Take any remaining air out of the ball
- Remove the thorn, nail, claw, etc. that caused the puncture
- Clean the damaged area
- Patch the ball with glue and like material
- Allow the patch to adhere
- Fill the ball with air so it can be used again
Now, it wouldn’t make any sense to stop halfway through this list of steps, would it? Say you were to remove the thorn, but then leave the hole unpatched. The ballgame wouldn’t last long, would it? Likewise, it wouldn’t do to repair the hole, but then to leave the ball deflated. We can’t consider the ball to be repaired until it’s ready to be used for its intended purpose.
What about the human spiritual condition?
We talk about redemption. We talk about being made whole. Yet we’re content with salvation without restoration. If you have a problem with lust, stay away from women and pictures of women. If you’re a glutton, avoid donut shops and ice cream parlors at all costs. If you abuse alcohol, abstain completely.
Short-term solutions are held up as moral success- legalism points to them as indicators of holiness. But discipline is the beginning of redemption, not the end. It’s the quick-fix, not the long-term repair. Redemption means full-circle restoration back to right relationship. A redeemed person can be around women and not lust after them. He can eat healthfully and in moderation. He doesn’t abuse alcohol. He is restored to a right relationship with all things, according to God’s design.
Of course, you may never reach the redeemed state this side of heaven. The short-term fix might be as far as you get. You can’t indulge as a test to see if you’ve reached “redemption.” The alcohol abuser can’t drink to see whether or not he’s overcome his pattern of abuse. We go through the process blindly. We really never can know how much “progress” we’ve made. Toward Christ-likeness is good. Away from it is not. But there are no benchmarks. No, “Okay, got that one taken care of. Now I’ll move on to the next big sin.”
In the end, we’re all works in progress. But the true meaning of redemption means never boasting in the “successes” of our own piety. At best, not sinning is only halfway to where we need to be.