Jesus Can Redeem the Past
When you look at all of the statistics (demographics, education, and about poverty) in Allendale, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose hope. At least, that’s what I would do. Being a pessimist, I always see the glass as half empty, and I even see the mostly full glass as partially empty.
Early on in our adventure here, a friend and mentor encouraged me to not dwell on the negatives. There are a lot of good things going on in Allendale, and our role is to continually pour in good, clear water, as if you were cleaning out a glass of black shoe polish. It is a long-term process, and we ourselves must be continually refreshed by the Spirit of God.
And that’s just it. We must continually remind ourselves that this is God’s story, not ours. Because for all that we can do to make things better, it is only God that can redeem the situation here.
A Theme of Hopelessness
When I talk with parents, business leaders, and retired folks in Allendale, I hear the same theme. “Things used to be great, then things went really bad. I don’t know if it’ll ever bounce back.” The slight glimmer of hope is quickly overtaken by bitterness and despair.
I remind them that we can’t dwell on the negative things that happened within the last 10-20 years. We have to move forward with positivity and hope. But I also remember that no work of man can fix the problems of Allendale. Our hope is that God will redeem this community for His glory.
God’s Story of Redemption
The story and pattern we see in Scripture is that of God redeeming the world. God takes what looks like horribly-hopeless pasts and experiences, and uses them for His good (Romans 8:28). Don’t believe me? Look at the family situations of four women that are in the genealogy of Jesus:
- Rahab was a prostitute (James 2:25) and a Gentile who had the faith to assist the spies at Jericho (Joshua 2).
- Ruth, another Gentile, was a widow and was rejected by her closest kinsman (Ruth 4:6).
- Bathsheba was raped by a king (let’s just call it that), had her husband murdered, and her infant died (I Samuel 11-12)
- Mary was impregnated before being married (Luke 1:26-38).
By any person’s perspective — especially from the perspective of “righteous” Jews — none of these women should have anything to do with a Messiah and King. But God had a redemptive plan, to show that His wisdom and power are far superior to ours (I Corinthians 1:18-29), especially by choosing “what is low and despised in the world.”
And the causes of pain endured by these women exist in Allendale today: sexual sin, rejection, poverty, pregnant teenagers, death, etc. But there is hope.
Hope for Allendale
God can redeem. He works in our lowest places. He’s done this throughout history, and I believe He can this for Allendale, too.
Richard Pratt reminds us that “every home is broken from the day it begins.” Therefore, God’s grace and mercy are equally needed for all of us, no matter what socioeconomic group you are in. We should be able to look at any person or family in Allendale and envision a Christ-centered hope for them.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”