Reverend Sean McIntyre, pastor, Centralia United Methodist Church
We all love redemption stories. Shawshank Redemption. The Pursuit of Happyness, Schindler’s List. It’s a Wonderful Life. Even comedies like Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar.
You can probably think of one yourself whether it’s film, literature or real life. Regardless entirely of our faith background or religious affiliation, we all love stories about people who hit rock bottom and rise from the ashes to do great things.
As someone who has spent their entire life as part of the Christian faith, I have regularly heard stories of people who were on a dark and destructive path and then experienced the grace and love of Jesus for the first time and it changed everything for them.
These are great stories and although they are inspiring, I have to be honest, they aren’t very relatable to me. I don’t know what it is like to be in prison or in the throes of a drug addiction or be part of a gang or involved in intense physical violence/danger. And I think that most people in the world, particularly in our context of 21st century America, probably feel the same way. There is no question that we have all done things that we regret, but at the same time, I’m not sure that most of us wake up every day with the constant weight of shame and regret pressing down on our shoulders. And yet I think this is how the average church and Christian tries to explain the gospel of Jesus. We offer Jesus as the antidote for our sin and shame when a lot of folks who don’t identify with a faith don’t see that as a problem for themselves. Not that they haven’t made mistakes, but they aren’t going to see their need for the good news of Jesus this way. Maybe you are reading this and feel the same way, but have never heard the Christian faith expressed in any other way. But I have to tell you, there is so much more to Jesus than the good place/bad place discussion. Now, this idea of Jesus bringing redemption to us by defeating sin isn’t wrong, there’s just even more than that.
Growing up, my brother was the type of kid that pretty much always ordered chicken fingers and fries. No matter where we went. Italian restaurant: chicken tenders and fries. Um…have you had Bolognese? And when it came to dessert: vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. I think many of us live our lives this same way. We go day to day and have great moments in life; moments of joy, laughter, love and authentic selflessness. Chicken fingers are great!
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard