What have Steve Smith, Tiger Woods and Jonathan Aitken got in common?
I wrote about Steve Smith recently in my Ashes Redemption blog following his amazing performance and outstanding skill in the First Ashes Cricket Test, when he was the main reason for Australia winning that match. Then in the Second Test, despite being bounced out of the game by England fast bowler, Jofra Archer, he almost got a century and was likely the main reason behind Australia not losing that match. It was a significant turn of fortune for the man, after returning to Test cricket following a year’s ban for cheating.
Tiger Woods is a golfing phenomenon who dominated world golf with incredible perfomances in the first decade of this century, after which he went off the boil and despite his best attempts was unable to win a “Major” – that is until April this year when he won the US Masters, followed by receiving the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom in May (all of which is detailed here), is a fitting outcome for his dogged perseverance. Reasons for his loss of form include injury, a messy divorce and his struggle with sex addiction.
Jonathan Aitken was a Cabinet Minister, who rubbed shoulders with the privileged and powerful, and some predicted had it in him to get the top job. But in 1999 he was sent to prison for perjury, where he served 7 months of an 18 month sentence (see here for his career details). A religious conversion and the chastening experience of being in prison were two principle reasons for him turning his life around (as detailed in this interview) as he currently works as an Anglican chaplain with a significant, life affecting prison ministry.
It could be said each of the above had redeemed themselves. They were in high profile positions and the world was their oyster but then in no time at all they spectacularly fell from grace and all were after criticised and vilified. It could have been they would resolve to remain there and fade into obscurity. But without blaming others or feeling sorry for themselves, they took full responsibility for their situation and turned things around. Having observed Smith, Woods and Aitken in action, I am in awe and rejoice this has been the case.
A neutral online explanation I was taken with is: “Redemption is the buying back of something. You might try for redemption by attempting to buy back a bike you sold, or you might attempt to buy back your soul after you steal someone else’s bike”. In the Bible story, redemption is very important and it could be said it is all about people, especially sinners (all of us) being redeemed and unlike with the three mentioned above it is not something we can do for ourselves. We are told we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”. As one hymn writer put it, our being redeemed was not of our doing: “Guilty, vile, and helpless we; Spotless Lamb of God was He”
Like most preachers I like to use everyday illustrations to explain a profound truth. Smith, Woods and Aitken could have stayed down but they did not. No doubt they received some help but in the end it was down to them to bounce back as they did. Some folk reading this may be down and some may have been down and up many times and can’t see a way of staying up. The wonderful gospel message (here for further explanation) is even if we have gotten as low as one can imagine, there is one who can pick us up, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is able to redeem us, for he died on a cross for our sins and shed his own blood. While we need to take responsibility for our own situation, it is Christ alone who does the redeeming.