I believe exercising faith in Jesus as Redeemer is more about living the type of life I believe he lived and wants me to live than about exact understanding of doctrine or philosophy or theology - as much as I absolutely love the study of those things. To me, exercising faith in Jesus as Redeemer means becoming like him - and the biggest aspect of that, perhaps, is nothing more than learning to see every person around me as valuable, important, worthy of love and, in the best sense of the ideal, a sibling and a fellow child of God.
I have been thinking about that idea as part of the concept of "redemption" - that, at the most fundamental level, redemption simply isn't "godly" and "infinite" if it doesn't include those who appear to us to be irredeemable. It has been particularly piercing this week, since I have been dealing with both a situation and a person for whom and in which I have been struggling to feel compassion - struggling to feel as if the person and the situation are irredeemable. I have been frustrated not only by this person and this situation (which, for the sake of clarity and full disclosure, are distinctly separate and not related in any way) but also with myself for not being able to deal with each properly.
The only thing I want to share tonight in this New Year's Resolution post is an epiphany I had this week as I struggled to reconcile my attempt to understand the redemption of Jesus Christ and how I can exercise faith in it with the deep frustration I was feeling in these two aspects of my own life. That epiphany is two-fold:
1) In the case of the person, it struck me that much if not all of my difficulty in seeing redeemable worth is the result of a very strong, very negative first impression. This person said some things quite a while ago that for me were extremely inflammatory. They were stereotypical broadsides - attacks on much of what I hold dear to my heart in what I perceived to be an uninformed, mean-spirited, sweeping, condescending, contemptuous way. I didn't bother trying to get to know this person; I simply took offense and, uncharacteristically, swung back. Since that time, whenever I was in a situation to interact with this person, my immediate reaction was negative - assuming the worst of what I was about to experience.
That initial reaction, based solely on one interaction and lacking ANY real depth of understanding at the personal level, kept me from seeing any redeeming qualities in someone I labeled an "adversary". Hence, right up until this evening, my hackles rose in this person's figurative presence - and I simply couldn't see that, in a very real way, I was denying the power of the redemption of Jesus Christ as it applies to all. I was making an exception at the practical, personal level - even though my brain would have said that, of course, I believed this person could be redeemed.
I am sorry that it took so long for me to realize this, but it has been a real eye-opener for me. I realized very clearly that I need to change MYSELF - not the other person or the circumstances in which we interact.
2) Conversely, I have come to realize that the difficult situation with which I have been struggling just might be fundamentally irredeemable for me - that I actually might have to remove myself from it in order for it to be resolved. This realization has brought its own kind of angst and concern, but what struck me hard this week, in relation to my New Year's Resolution, is that there is a HUGE difference between an inter-personal conflict and a situational conflict that merely involves other people.
I have no right to judge a person as irredeemable, even with people who might be much worse than my initial perception of the person I described above. However, in some situations, even as I cannot judge the person to be irredeemable, I can (and sometimes must) be willing and able to judge a situation as irredeemable. In those cases, even as I refuse to condemn the person (leaving that judgment to the one who truly can see the ability of the soul and the intent of the heart), I must separate myself from the situational aspects that cause it to be irredeemable.
In summary, although I can and should "give up on" some situations, I can never "give up on" people - at least from an eternal perspective. I learned this evening the folly of doing that, since I discovered the person I had been writing off really isn't nearly as bad as I had assumed - and certainly not irredeemable.