17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
There have been two words on my heart as I’ve lived this week: Deliverance and Attention. Without really knowing why, I carried a simple assurance this week that one had to do with the other. That our ability to pay attention to God, ourselves, and others, was conditioned on, grounded in, our Deliverance from Sin.
This passage says we were ransomed from futile ways. Meaning not just that our sins were pardoned but they we were released from bondage to their disfiguring power. We were captive to a way of being in the world that had no future. And the requirement for a new way of being in the world was a dramatic rescue, a rescue as perfect, dramatic and daring as Christ’s precious blood. I forget Christ’s intention for us is not our to make us better, but to raise us from the dead. God's intention in Christ is our deliverance.
Christ and I, it seems, have a different definition of deliverance, of ransoming John Bryant. And the more I figure out about what he wants for John Bryant (me) the more I understand about what he wants for people I meet and chat and sit with.
I want Christ’s precious blood to help me figure things out, feel better, and get what I want. But a life where the point is to figure things out, feel better, and get what I want is what Peter would call “futile ways,” a way of living that doesn’t have a future.
And so what is deliverance?
This passage says the blood of the precious lamb has purchased our fear. The kind of fear where you stand in awe. The kind of fear where you offer yourself in wonder and submission to the thing that is feared. Fear is a combination of trust and attention. In a world full of horrible things, this world of exile, Christ’s precious blood has purchased something miraculous, our trust and our attention.
I have an anxiety disorder. The Lord over these two years made it clear that my anxious thoughts were what he would fix last. The first thing he fixed was my trust. And then today, after years of only being able to give my trust to Christ (and not my feelings or desires, which are monsters), I wake up and am able to do something I couldn’t even dream of doing two years ago: I can stop what I’m doing and pay attention. I have been given, by Christ’s precious blood, out of nowhere and without any merit, the ability to pay attention.
This week, me and a couple of friends from a care home downtown went down to Mcdonalds. It how we capped off a week of doing Evening Prayer together. I blasted Abba’s “SOS” from the speakers. We laughed. And the people I was supposed to be “helping” were being more than helped. They were being enjoyed. I have OCD, but today I could pay attention to God and to them. I could enjoy them with all of my heart and mind. And they could be enjoyed.
And this, the Lord says, is my deliverance over Sin. I’ll take it today, I’ll take it anyday. I will bow down before the Lamb that was slain with all my trust and my attention.