by Phil Baker
I have to confess one of my favorite shows is “Dancing with the Stars”. It’s a guilty pleasure – a sequined, graceful, often awkward pleasure – but still a guilty one. So I waited intently for the announcement this morning of which “stars” would be dancing this season. My jaw hit the floor when I read that Ryan Lochte would be competing. You know, Ryan Lochte, Olympic gold medal winning swimmer, “Robin” to Michael Phelps’ “Batman”, bleach-blond-Brazilian-bathroom-bashing-embellisher, RYAN LOCHTE!!!
Lochte has had a hard row to hoe since his fib in Rio earlier this month. So this move is an ingenious PR stunt and an obvious plea for public redemption. Watching him soar from Olympic glory to scandal in just a short amount of time reminds me of just how fickle a society we are. We are quick to glorify, quick to judge and quick to condemn. But forgiving and forgetting don’t come so quickly. In fact when it comes, if it comes, it is often silent and unnoticed. Pick almost any scandal. You will likely remember hearing about the initial incident – a DUI, an arrest, an unflattering mug shot. But chances are you never heard how the story ended – a fine, time served, out-of-court settlement. Even though the perpetrator received redemption in the eyes of the law, they likely never received it in the public’s eyes.
Let me name a couple more of my favorite shows – “Parks and Recreation” and “The Grinder”. The former had 7 successful seasons. The latter was cancelled after just 1. Both were hilarious and both included actor Rob Lowe. If you are old enough, you remember that Lowe had a little problem in 1988 involving drugs, sex and videotape. Yet today Lowe has successfully turned his life around and is as beloved as ever. When exactly was he redeemed? According to the eyes of the law, it was after 20 hours of community service. But in the public’s eyes…I don’t know…“Wayne’s World” maybe?
If you were to ask me when I received redemption, I would tell you about a Youth Evangelism Conference in 1988 (the same year as Rob Lowe’s little escapade). I raised my hand to profess Jesus as my savior during the invitation and silently prayed the sinner’s prayer. The next moment my heart grew 3 sizes, the entire Bible downloaded into my brain (in 10 different translations) and I haven’t sinned a single time since!
Obviously that last sentence isn’t true. So how would anyone, including me, know I was redeemed? God knows. For God, my redemption came that moment. But it is also a process. It is a process that was just starting that day in 1988 and is still being done today. It was the beginning of a journey. In the world’s eyes my value takes a little longer to assess. For man, redeeming a person isn’t like redeeming a coupon which is scanned once at the checkout then thrown in the trash. Redeeming a person is saying, “He still has value.” “She can still be used.” “He is not worthless.” And that takes time and relationship for the non-omnipotent.
Everyone is looking for redemption in their life. God offers you redemption. But His redemption is different from the world’s. God’s redemption is instantaneous. The world’s redemption is a journey. Maybe you don’t feel redeemed because the world is constantly reminding you of your mistakes. It is a reality show not unlike “Dancing with the Stars”. Shut out the world and focus on your dance partner. God knows your value. If you dance with Him, others will soon see it too.