We don’t have mountains where I live. The skyline is a vast plain, painted with trees and fields and farms. In winter, it turns into a gray overcast sky contrasted with the yellowish brown of fields of dead grass. In some ways, it’s lovely. In many other ways it’s sad. I have been to places where the beauty is striking: the Rockies, La Jolla cove, Yellowstone, the mountainous highlands of Honduras, the Sandias. The land where I live is none of those things. It’s just flat. It’s the perfect metaphor for the spiritual battleground I inhabit with my friends and family that are colocated with me here.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
ἐξαγοράζω. This is the Koine Greek word for “redeeming” here (pronounced “exagorazo”). Thayer’s Lexicon expounds on the paradigm meaning as ‘to redeem, by payment of a price to recover the power from another, to ransom, to buy off…to buy up for one’s self, for one’s use.’ What a deep way to look at redeeming time. We are told to buy up time for our own use, for our self, to redeem it, to ransom it, because the days are evil. The days are evil…another temporal measurement/judgement. But it’s in contrast to our actions that we are told to take here. The days are evil, so we should redeem the time…but how do we do it? By walking wisely, circumspectly, not in folly or foolishness.
We live the metaphor, as me and my compatriots in our land do…where the physical beauty is far off and we must keep the hope burning. Romans 8:24-25,
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
I do not see the beauty of the land that I am inheriting. On the contrary, I am in the middle of an ignited battlefield, where hearts are shelled by the enemy daily. Barb wire runs across trenches from which demons and lovers, children of God and people of the world, angels and fallen angels and fallen hopes and dreams get snagged on and spirit flesh is visciously torn off. It’s war my friends. And not just some mystical Star Wars-esq war where the beauty and excitement is wrapped up in brilliant light sabre battles against fallen angels. No, much of the time the campaigns we are assigned to takes place here, in trenches reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front.
I see this a lot. I see my friends, a brother, a sister, who has been shelled, shot at, and hurt and the war is raging all around the plains, spiritual weapons are going off in all directions, the noise is deafening and we’re trying to stop the bleeding, to start the healing…it’s hard. The trenches aren’t a hospital. And yet that’s what many of us need.
On top of this God calls us to not just healing, but to restoration. He calls us to a life that we have never known before. But a life, deep down, we know we were created for (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He calls us heirs of his kingdom. A place where your heart’s desires are fulfilled, they are fulfilled in relationship with him, deep intimacy with him. He calls us his beloved, calls you his dearly beloved. He wants you to know how special you are, how you are the apple of his eye, the desire of his heart. You are what he really wants, your redemption is the reason for the cross. You are treasured.
It’s a flickering of this hope and knowledge that can help stitch the wounds in the trenches. We fight on, daily. Sometimes it’s for others, to save them, sometimes it’s four ourselves. It’s brutal.
We redeem the time in two ways: 1) By redeeming it to save others. We cannot stay hunkered down in our trenches forever. Satan and his demons fire the guns endlessly it seems. But we have been given weapons from the Spirit too. We have his armor (Ephesians 6:10-20). 2 Corinthians 10:4,
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We are called to fight. For each other. I think this goes along with the second great commandment and is an answer to Cain’s ironic question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I would say, “Yes, you are.”
2) We can redeem the time to restoration with God. Jesus is constantly working to restore us into the image bearers of God he created us to be. As we do this, we become more of who we truly are. We are purified by fire on the battleground so that we can partake in the fiery love of heaven with God and each other, so that we may see face to face truly then. We must go places in our hearts where God wants to clean off the dirt so that we can see the beautiful places inside us that he wants to meet us in, to embrace us and love us in. He desires us and our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29), consuming everything that is not of him. This is a passionate love affair we are in with the Son of God. And he wants us to be passionately, madly in love with him.
For both ways to redeem the time, we must be participants. We must choose to go there, to do what’s necessary to save others and love them through the battle. We must choose restoration with God. This means we stay away from things that hurt our hearts, that stifle intimacy with God. We kick the other lovers out of bed, worldly lovers that turn our heart’s worship away from our Beloved Jesus. In turn, the closer and more intimate we are with our Beloved Jesus, the stronger we become on the battlefield, the more people we can help and love and fight for, the more darkness we will push back, and the more restored we will become. Everything flows out from our relationship with Jesus. We are not strong enough to “go it alone.” We will be destroyed if we try.
One day, I plan to look out from a balcony toward a gorgeous mountain range. Jesus’ hand in mine. The wedding will be done. His kingdom will be established. The beast will be burning. We will finally be able to breathe. The scene will be lovely. Freedom will wash out from his presence into the valley and mountains below and beyond and it will be a sight that will make Lord of the Rings jealous. It will be after dinner, early evening. The sun will be setting and all will be right. Maybe it will be Christmastime. Snow covering the land and fires of warmth and joy burning in a fireplace nearby. It will be heavenly. There won’t be any need to live the metaphor and we will drink deeply from the fount of love and beauty that is Jesus in his presence. We have such a good thing coming to us, my sisters and brothers. Let that fire burn inside you, even now as the shelling of the battlefield continues.
We are going home.