This article was originally published in Edition (6) of Prayer Magazine,  Apr-Jun 2006.

Redeeming Our Communities is an initiative that began in the North West in September 2004 with a high-profile launch at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, attended by over 1,000 people. Senior police officers, City Council leaders, MPs and other secular leaders shared their appreciation of the way Christians are reaching out in practical ways to bring the transforming power of the Gospel to their local communities. Hazel Blears MP, a Home Office minister, addressed the meeting and spoke passionately of her own concern to see community redemption.

Since its launch, word has spread further afield and, in response to widespread demand from churches, mission agencies, Police Forces and Government Departments, Redeeming Our Communities is now being launched nationally at the NEC in Birmingham on Saturday May 13th (make sure to book your ticket - more information from City Links Trust at www.citylinks.org.uk).

Why are we Redeeming Our Communities? 

Redemption is clearly a central theme in Christianity. Most Christians will be aware of the application of the term to the atoning work of Christ at Calvary. The word was in common use in the slave markets of the Ancient Near East, meaning to buy back: a slave could be redeemed from his condition if someone paid the price demanded by their master, thus enabling the person to be restored to their original condition of freedom and normality.

Clearly, the notion of restoring troubled areas of our country to something like their former glory appeals greatly to the Government. And they are keen to partner with the Church regardless of huge differences in fundamental beliefs. This coinciding of agendas presents Christians with a wonderful opportunity not only to “deliver the goods” but also to draw attention to the Saviour. Churches working together in active outreach that improves social conditions and transforms lives earn themselves the right to explain their motivation and reveal their source of power.

A study of the use of the word in the Bible reveals a surprising early reference on the lips of Job (the book is one of the oldest in the Hebrew Bible) whose confident assertion found its way into the lyrics of Handel’s “Messiah”:

‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.’ (Job 19:25)

The Hebrew word that is translated here as ‘Redeemer’ also carries the meanings of avenger, deliverer and kinsman. The implications of this are illustrated in the story of Ruth and Boaz.  Ruth 4:5 reads:

‘Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabites, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.’

Redemption here was as matter of restoring the family and its livelihood, of looking after the poor, the foreigner (Ruth) and the widow (Naomi). It was the responsibility of the nearest kinsman, and the word used for kinsman in Ruth is the one translated as ‘Redeemer’ in Job.  This restoration of the family was not a private event, it was a public one.  It was witnessed by the leaders of the community, by the elders of the town in the public meeting place of the town gate (Ruth 4:2).  Redemption for one family was also an act of redemption of, for and by the whole community.

And, of course, the greatest redeeming act of all was the self-giving sacrifice of Christ, without which Job’s confident statement would be totally devoid of meaning and substance.

Redeeming Our Communities seeks to encourage the expression of this deep truth in God-honouring practical ways that are relevant in contemporary society.  In modern guises the poor, the foreigner and the widow are still with us and we have a wonderful opportunity to increase the effectiveness of our ministry to them by joining forces with the Police and Government who share similar goals despite not necessarily understanding the full weight of meaning of the language they are embracing!

So why not get involved in redeeming your community for God, you can follow the progress of other areas and also link into what God is doing through this new intiative by visiting the website or coming along to the launch event – it’s so exciting!!

Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance has recently said :-

 “The national launch of Redeeming Our Communities is a new and powerful venture in Christian citizenship which brings prayer and action together in the fight against crime.”

 

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