Redeem Thyself

indexIn the 2012 playoffs, the Yankees went down in flames, and they did it in a way that no one expected: the Bronx Bombers couldn’t hit! Long known for using their high-priced “murderer’s row” offense to make up for shaky starting pitching, the 2012 Yankees lost close, low-scoring games because they couldn’t score any runs. Alex Rodriguez took most of the blame because of his overwhelming contract.

Yankees fans, used to cheering the long ball, got frustrated. For one game, a fan took the time to paint a giant sign saying “A-Rod: Redeem Thyself” and bring it to Yankee Stadium. How do you think Rodriguez felt, looking up into the stands and seeing that sign? I know how I would feel! I’d want to jump over the wall, clamber up to that fan’s row, and scream in his face, “Look, I’m TRYING to get hits! Don’t you think I’d be playing better if it was up to me? Don’t you think I’d redeem myself if I could?”

Self-redemption is every human being’s fondest hope, but it’s also our impossible dream. In sports, people always talk about the disaster that can come from trying to make up for failures on the next play. Coaches always chide athletes to have a short memory; if you go into the next play, the next match, or the next game trying to make up for the mistakes of the previous one, you’ll usually only compound them. The assertion is simple: we can’t redeem ourselves.

Humans refuse to believe that we are beyond helping ourselves. In fact, we often protest that God only helps those who do! We dearly wish that we could atone for our own mistakes and say “Thanks but no thanks” to the offered atoning death of Another. We’re uncomfortable owing someone so much.

We only acknowledge our need for a Savior when the idol of self-salvation is unceremoniously ripped from our grasp. A few days after the “Redeem Thyself” sign appeared at Yankee Stadium, Justin Verlander’s three hit annihilation served as the Hammer of God, finally convincing the Yankees, and their fans, that a Savior from within is not enough.

Today, let us celebrate the Good News that we have a Redeemer, and he is not us.

  • Walter says:

    Good one. One other thing: It is such a relief to not have to be God.

  • Steve Martin says:

    I am engaged in the process of being my own little god.

    One of the reasons that this self-obsessed idolator needs a Savior.

  • J. Dean says:

    Serious note: Truth. Matter of fact, if you watch nearly every Hollywood movie out there, the central theme (at least in the halfway decent movies) is some form of redemption, and it often entails a sort of “penance” or a “work your way out of it” solution. As interesting as it is to see that there is a tacit acknowledgment of the necessity of redemption even in a culture as banal as the entertainment culture, it is not surprising that the redemption usually falls upon the shoulders of the person who needs it, rather than through a proxy who fulfills what they cannot.

    Not-so-serious note: as a Tigers/Cubs fan, I shed no tears for the Bronx :D

  • Jacob Goff says:

    Could you just once spare us the indignity? Once? No? Fine.
    Liberation it is.

  • C. Russell says:

    “We have a Redeemer, and he is not us.” This needs to be a tagline for a Liberate Conference someday.

  • Jeremy W says:

    I would add in reference to the line above ” We’re uncomfortable owing someone so much.”…one difficulty i’ve had in accepting God’s love over the years is the deep internal sense that i do owe God something…..I know this is linked to some very dysfunctional family issues, but I have struggled to simply bathe in God’s love because of nebulous obligations in my mind…eg I’ll have to prove myself with fruit in my life before i can really relax in God’s love etc…’s always something in the future.
    I’ve often struggled to accept gifts from people in general life too because i’ve seen them not as gifts but as obligations or things i ”owe” someone… This thinking gets carried over into my relationship with God….

  • Brad says:

    “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” This verse became an anchor point for me as an insecure perfectionist early in my Christian life upon my conversion in college 35 years ago. Any preacher or teacher (even my mentor or respected friends) who said that righteousness or sanctification included a part that was about my obedience to moral commands puzzled me as it didn’t seem to fit with Paul’s words. I was unclear about sanctification but knew it had to fit with this verse. My own reading of many verses even puzzled me for years. But clinging to this rock protected me from many self-salvation projects. Being a perfectionist does have a curious advantage in that while we can be much tempted to beat ourselves and others up with cheap law, I suspect that we can more easily be convinced that perfect love is God’s requirement for saint as well as sinner and that cheap law is a really destructive thing–we perfectionist can be real experts at high levels of cheap law. But true perfection makes even a perfectionist relax, enjoy the celebration of the cross, and want to invite others in. Let’s find all the depressed perfectionists we can and tell them to raise the heavy bar all the way to true perfection. As the weight melts away they might just cry and laugh with us at having ever thought they could be good enough, and might relax in Christ for maybe the first time ever.

  • Zach says:

    Pastor Tullian, in your sermons and writings you often emphasize the importance of letting each of God’s “words” (law and gospel) do its proper function so that we truly appreciate the good news over against the bad. While I appreciate this emphasis, I notice that you usually describe the law (the bad news) as having a preparatory role for the gospel (the good news of what Jesus has done for us). But it seems to me that in the New Testament, this order is usually reversed: the biblical authors spend time reminding their audiences of the good news (their gospel identity in Christ) and then proceed to instruct them practically (law). Do you believe this difference matters?

  • Marlyn Staggs says:

    So appreciate the comments of Goff and Russell . . . well said, gentlemen!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Related Articles

Tullian Tchividjian
This Lost Kings remix of Disclosure’s track “Latch” (featuring Sam Smith) is perfect. Melodic, romantic, energetic. Happy Monday, my friends……
Tullian Tchividjian
Robert Capon died yesterday. For those who are unfamiliar with who he was, Capon was an author, theologian, food critic,…
Tullian Tchividjian
As I’ve said on numerous occasions, my favorite three days of every year are the days of our annual Liberate…