The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Redemption: Has America Forgotten This?

Following the mass murder of innocents in Newtown, Connecticut, I have been appalled by what a gun organization advocate and a Southern Baptist preacher have said. Both have said in one way or another it is good to be armed and to be able to kill anyone who threatens you, your neighbor, your family, your community. It is a sign of a loss of one of the most important concepts of our Judeo-Christian heritage, and at Christmas time, which makes it worse. One of the cornerstones of Christianity is the concept of grace. God saves us through God's own love and grace. We cannot save ourselves. This is a powerful act of love from God. We are granted grace. Now the two greatest commandments from Jesus are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your strength, all of your might, and all of your soul; and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus illustrated the concept in the book of Luke with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Samaritan of the day was similar to a member of God's chosen people, the nation of Israel, but they have a few religious differences, chief among them where to place the temple of God. With this argument came anger, alienation, and eventually the two sides become enemies. A Samaritan traveling down a treacherous wilderness road finds a Jew beaten by robbers and left to die in the ditch. Two of the man's religious leaders have already passed him by, ignoring his plight. His enemy arrives, the Samaritan, and binds his wounds, takes him to an Inn, pays for 2 months of service there intended to restore the man to health, and promised to return and pay whatever more it had taken to heal his supposed enemy. Now, this Samaritan was willing to heal a stricken foe, to offer him redemption and expected nothing in return. This is a powerful story and a wonderful concept we in this nation, swallowed by fear, have apparently lost.

We fail to heal the mentally ill. We deny them treatment, allow their diseases to escalate to the point they become delusional and dangerous. In their illness, we allow them access to military grade assault weapons ... and then we are surprised by the consequences. We label them evil (though we did not care for them) and arm ourselves against them, determined to shoot them down, rather than work for their redemption in the early stages of their diseases. (This is in no way intended to excuse the actions of the 20 year old in Newtown who gunned down those people, but it does help explain things.)

We have turned prisons into a business. I heard one prison official state, we are no longer in the business of rehabilitation. Of course not, that's bad business. You want to keep those profitable prison beds filled don't you? You have forgotten redemption.

We are so readily willing to label others and write them off rather than seeking their redemption, as if God had not already offered each of us redemption of our own.

Please take a moment to read this mighty parable about redemption. The Father is God, the prodigal is all of us who stray, the second brother is all of us who stand by and judge, refuse to accept redemption of another and in so doing pull away from God's love of them ... and us. This is something worth considering as Christmas approaches and as we seek solutions to the problems at hand. I would suggest buying more guns is not the solution, but a symbol of how far we have fallen from this basic tenant of the faith.

Luke 15: The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

 Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons.
The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me
the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he
divided his property between them. A few days later the
younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant
country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute
living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine
took place throughout that country, and he began to be
in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the
citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed
the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods
that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my
father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare,
but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my
father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called
your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he
set off and went to his father. But while he was still far
off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he
ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the
son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and
before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a
robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his
finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf
and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of
mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!”
And they began to celebrate.
 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came
and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He
called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He
replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed
the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and
sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His
father came out and began to plead with him. But he
answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have
been working like a slave for you, and I have never
disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me
even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my
friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has
devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the
fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you
are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But
we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of
yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and
has been found.” 

A little reminder of what God has done for us ...

Ephesians 1:7: 
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our 
trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

It's time we remembered we are redeemed by God's love and 
we should work to redeem others. Then, perhaps, we won't 
feel such heightened fear and we can put away the 
weapons of war.

Update: 12/21/12: The NRA spokesman stated today that the 
only way to protect our children against "monsters" is to provide 
an armed guard for every school. I say no, we protect 
our children against monsters by working hard to ensure that we 
are not creating those "monsters" by neglecting the mentally ill, 
the isolated, the downtrodden, the bullied, AND by not 
empowering them by putting semi-automatic weapons in 
their hands. An insane man in China entered a school and 
attacked 22 students. All of them survived as that disturbed 
"monster" could only get his hands on a knife. 
See any difference??? 

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