June 5th, 2006



When iniquities prevail against me,
   you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
   to dwell in your courts!

—Psalm 65:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

—1 Peter 1:3-5

"Salvation" gets a bad rap. Even in my own mind, the word is quickly associated with evangelism tracts and "turn or burn" speeches. This is a meaning that has no beauty, only urgency. On the wrong side of this version salvation are threats of damnation; on the other side are huddles of Christians speaking Christianese to each other and singing gospel hymns or repetitive praise choruses. Neither is a place I'd want to be. It's just a choice between two hells—one more pleasant, but only in a cloying, sickening sort of way.

Thankfully, the Biblical concept of salvation is deeper, richer, more robust, and more beautiful. Instead of only an abstract deliverance from the imagery of judgement, God also offers life now in the mess. Deep down, don't I know it's not supposed to be this way? Don't I know I need to be saved? Maybe I've been afraid to admit it, running from it, stuffing my life full of pleasure and distraction because the need becomes too overwhelming to face and the aforementioned caricature of salvation isn't any better. Make no mistake—true salvation still requires perseverence in the here-and-now. But with an undergirding of hope, it is possible not just to endure, but to find joy, to rest from the constant scrambling and underlying fear, to become alive.

Salvation means things can change, even I can change, because it comes from outside of me, bearing both the authority and the security of God. And things will change, because they need to. Maybe I've been afraid of admitting that, too, because that admission is connected to judgment (if things need to change, it's because they're wrong), and judgment is a terrible thing without salvation. But what if fear were replaced in my heart with hope through faith by the power of God's own Holy Spirit? What if I could trade in my coping mechanisms for change, my debts for a blank check written on His account? Like a home renovation, the intermediate stages will almost certainly involve inconvenience, discomfort, and even suffering. But in this case, the finished product is both certain and beautiful, guaranteed by the Finisher.

I can't capture the fullness of salvation in writing. I can't dispell the pale cultural/Christianese substitute with a few sentences. The bottom line is that it is more and it is beautiful. It is what I really need. And it belongs to God, beginning and ending in Him alone.