I’ve just read a story in which a man with an unpalatable past sacrifices himself in the most painful way to save someone he hardly knows.
Such an act of redemption is one which appeals very much to what is human in us. We see redemption as something almost tangibly beautiful.
You might argue that this stems from, or is interwoven with, The Great Story of redemption – the self-sacrificial act that redeems us all. Maybe this is at the centre of our existence, and we are therefore moved by it. Or you might not think that at all.
Whatever you think, redemption as a possibility is something vital to us. And that’s why the kind of journalism that begins its stories “Shamed vicar…” or “Shamed celebrity…” is one that is inhuman.
Why? Because it condemns us to remaining the same. It condemns us to hopelessness. It claims that whatever we’ve done, however great or small, it will for ever taint our memory. Nothing we can do will change it.
If this is true, we might as well give up. But in truth redemption is always possible, just as unforgiveness is always self-harming.
To have a concrete, unforgiving attitude to anyone – those of a certain political or religious persuasion, for instance – does us no good at all. It blinds us to the possibility of change, and to the depths of humanity that lie within the most unpromising of us. It blinds us, in the end, to reality.
If we want to understand each other, redemption is a good place to start.