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Desk

Salvation

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.

Comments

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.

That's a good point.

I would like to add a corollary point: not everyone wants salvation and Heaven (in the true sense). By way of comparison, would you like to be married to someone that you either barely know, or do know and despise, and remain with that person for ever and ever? Of course not. If the contract is for eternity and the terms are total love, not only are you unable to fulfill your end of it, but you may prefer to be anywhere else.
Agreed. I'd say most (still not all) people want some sort of salvation, but far fewer are up for it when it's attached to Christ (and it is). Your comparison is apt: in talking with nonChristians, I often encounter the most outrage at the offensive notion that only those saved by Christ will enjoy Heaven. My response: "Why are you so interested in Heaven? Right now, you won't like what we do there."

Dozens if not hundreds have said this better than I, but the fact is, the good news of salvation doesn't play as well in a culture where we seem to be able to save ourselves. Some have taken a seeker-sensitive route to evangelism that centers on the hunger for meaning rather than the need for salvation, but I think that's either selling the gospel short or a cheap bait-and-switch tactic. We need an honest awareness of the need to be saved from the mess (even the beginnings of one, because we're always discovering new depths), and we need to trust that the Spirit will bring that and bless the foolishness of preaching such a gospel.

I love the timing of these beautiful thoughts and what has been happening in my own life. Thank you, Obi.
You're always welcome. There's usually Someone else involved with the timing.

Oh my! The Icon! Now I need one....maybe Luke.
Well.

This just confirms for me that when I really, really, really need a word, I get it.

You should have heard me on my way to work this morning. You were writing this at the exact same time.

Very cool—I love when/how God works.
Lee you always end up surprising me.

Just when I've mentally put you away in a neat little box of cynicism you break out and offer me some really outstanding food for thought.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

—Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"
i am a total etymology nerd... but i particularly love that the root of salvation salvus- means healthy or whole. when i hear people miscommunicating the idea, selling it short with the idea of a line that needs to be crossed - i remember that what god is offering is real health and wholeness. i can be sick - or incomplete - or i can endure the process and discover real life.

thanks for these thoughts. it's a good reminder.
My church has been discussing the healthy/whole nature of salvation for a while now. I'm glad this ramble was a reminder.