I like words. And I like to notice when a new word becomes hot. “Re-set” is one of those words. This word may have been around for a long time, though I don’t remember it. But I hear it a lot these days, whether it has to do with the economy, or relationships with the Russians, or with Congress, or in telling a story that explains our condition. We need to re-set.
I guess it’s a word. I’m not sure it’s a true word, or, a word that has real meaning. I don’t believe suddenly being kind after being offensive results in harmony, or that suddenly telling a new version of truth after old versions have been exposed gives birth to trust - I don’t think that re-set works. The crook or sinner from five minutes ago is still a crook or sinner. Maybe he has learned a lesson, but he still may remember a number of his old lessons.
But I love “re-” words. And I love the ones that are actually a part of intelligent literature, and I especially love the “re-” words of the Bible. Let’s take a look at these three: re-pentance, re-conciliation, and re-demption.
Repentance is telling the truth about my sin, and turning away from it. It is agreeing with God about the fact of my sin even as I admit that my actions/attitudes were a lie and an offense against God’s truth. Repentance does not lead us to a vacuum, but to faith, a turning toward God even as we turn away from ourselves. It is a humble act of submission that comes about as God in His Spirit graciously breaks down the hardness of our hearts and shines His light into our darkness. Repentance is real because it is not merely a human activity initiated in order to paint over our own messes. It is initiated by God to “bring me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay” (Psalm 40:2). It is God’s rescue operation.
Reconciliation is putting back together what has torn apart. We fail to remember that most of our fractures cannot be self-healed. We desperately need outside help. My major theological illustration of this is good old Humpty Dumpty. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” Neither can you, and neither can I. But God does. He goes to the root of the problem and plants a new root. He does not placate the enmity, but destroys the enmity, “by abolishing in His (Christ’s) flesh the enmity” (Ephesians 2:15), “having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God is able to create true and deep peace where there was only fear and suspicion. I love this word. It’s a true word with real meaning.
That brings us to redemption. We are, by nature, imprisoned and enslaved people. That’s what it means to be a sinner. We don’t just make bad choices. Our whole existence is defined by bad choice. We are a bad choice. We are part of Satan’s choice to rebel against God; part of of Adam’s choice to have his own way. We are a product of bad choice, and an expression of bad choice. And then, in our own experience, we confirm bad choice time and time again, even when we don’t want to. But God, in redemption, embraces “bad choice.” “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). He embraces you. He embraces me. He pays the price to redeem you from your slavery and imprisonment into a new experience of love and forgiveness; to a new life of purity and freedom on a new path, never alone, but in constant contact with His Son, Jesus.