Freedomland is a gritty little picture about people in need of redemption (are there any other kind?). There’s a woman named Brenda, whose young son has died as a result of her negligence. Rather than admit to this, she has secretly buried his body and concocted a story about having her automobile carjacked while her son was in it.
Then there’s Lorenzo, the detective assigned to investigate her case. He has a pretty good idea about what’s going on with Brenda but no proof of her wrongdoing. In addition, he’s dealing with his own set of issues in regard to his son Jason. He’s in prison for armed robbery, or as Lorenzo says, because the kind of man he is, is the kind of man I showed him how to be. There are others as well: couples, communities, police departments—all in need of redemption.
As the movie progresses, truth wins out and Brenda confesses to her crime. After she is put in prison, Lorenzo goes to visit her. He’s not there as a detective but as a human being—as one struggling person reaching out to another struggler. He tells Brenda there are women in the prison who need her help and she needs to reach out to them. He then speaks of his own desire to help others.
Now Jason’s in prison and he’ll probably be in and out and out of prison the rest of his life. It’s kind of late in the game, but I want to do is be there for him. But with kids no matter what you did or how bad you think you messed up, God always finds a way to give you another shot at it. It might not be with that particular child but . . . What I’m trying to say Brenda is that God’s grace is sort of, like, retroactive. So every little kid out there is Jason for me now. And, no, they’re not my blood, but I can live with that. And I’m happy. My life is good.
Lorenzo has learned the truth that while there are things we’ve done wrong that cannot be undone, there are also things waiting to be done. Through these things, God brings healing and hope. We experience His redemption initially when by faith we’re baptized into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), and then again when we as the body of Christ allow ourselves to be used as His instruments of redemption (Colossians 1:24ff). It’s Moses leading Israel between two walls of water. It’s Esther putting herself in harm’s way to save her people. It’s David before Goliath.
This is what Paul was speaking of when he said:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you, (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).
If anyone had a past that could haunt them, surely it was Paul. Yet he found redemption through getting in the way of God’s grace. He experienced more than his share of trials and troubles (hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, etc.), but found life in the presence of death.
Too often we’re content to live little lives on the fringes of redemption—we want just enough for us and our loved ones. That’s not the way it works. If it’s for us then it’s for everyone and if it’s not for everyone it’s not for us. Let’s get in the way of God.