It is an ancient debate: how much responsibility does a human being have for his or her own redemption? For redeeming others? For redeeming the earth? One picture is to see ourselves as overshadowed by an all-powerful God who is “running the show” and “calling the shots”. Over time, human beings let things get into such a mess that God had to send His Son to straighten everything out for us. One simply needs to recognize that this is so, even on an individual scale, and to align oneself somehow with divine intention.Not a bad start.
And one could also take the view that this picture of God as parent (after all, we call Him our Father), is a relationship that changes over time, just like its earthly counterpart does. The younger the child, the more the parent needs to structure its life so that the child gets what it needs in order to grow into an independent, responsible adult. Gradually, as the child matures, the parent can entrust ever greater responsibility to it for the running of its own life. Mistakes are great learning opportunities.
But once the child has grown into an adult, it would be disrespectful, or even insulting, to treat the adult as a child. It would even show the parent’s own lack of faith in its own parenting.
One could think of humankind as a whole as having reached its young adult phase. At this point, the Father has withdrawn from exercising His parental prerogatives with us because that would be disrespectful with his grown children. The choice for deciding to join in the work of redemption in this time period has been given over into ever-maturing human hands. Mistakes are great learning opportunities.
Yet God has not turned his back on us in this: God has given us a peer, an older brother, who is willing to walk with us, if we will have Him. This brother can give us guidance and help us along the redemptive path, since He knows the Father’s heart, the Father’s intentions for the world.
He, Christ, God’s Son, is our brother. He can teach us how best to exercise the responsibilities we have for helping to redeem ourselves, to redeem others, to redeem the earth.
We contribute to our own redemption by increasing our self-awareness. We contribute to redemption with an objective awareness of both our maturing strengths and our weaknesses. Working with those strengths and weaknesses in ourselves, with Christ’s help, will aid us in our maturing. Examining, for example, that in certain situations I end up angry, or sad, or behaving badly, and finding ways to overcome that, is my part in the work of my redemption. Christ will add His strength to our efforts. Deciding to find ways to increase my strengths, especially in service of others will be supported by Christ. I learn to work responsibly with and on myself.
It is such inner work that will then rightly allow us find ways to help redeem others. The work in twelve step programs is an example of such redemptive working with others. And such strengthening of self-awareness will also ultimately lead us to find ways of redeeming the fallen nature of all the kingdoms of the earth.
For as Paul, an individual who worked closely with our Brother, says, “All around us creation waits with great longing that the sons of God shall begin to shine forth in mankind….For the breath of freedom will also waft through the kingdoms of creation; the tyranny of transitory existence will cease. When the sphere of the Spirit grows bright, unfreedom will be replaced by the freedom which is intended for all God’s offspring.” Romans 8:19,21, The New Testament, a rendering, by Jon Madsen.