Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On my Salvation

“Lord, what must I do to be saved?” The rich man who asked this question of Jesus would have liked to hear a cut and dry answer. A five step process would have been nice. Something he could put on a check list is what he would have preferred. Hear, check. Believe, check. Repent, check. Jesus gave him a list, well enough, but it surely wasn’t just that.
     “A ship is not just a keel and hull and sails, those are what a ship needs. But what a ship is, what the Black Pearl is, is freedom.” We have said in loud voices while we beat are chest that Salvation is baptism, or Salvation is a prayer, or Salvation is an acceptance. But, those are not what Salvation is. Salvation is not baptism or a prayer or acceptance, those are things that salvation may need, but what salvation is, what Jesus Christ accomplished, is an invitation to freedom. He has invited us to repentance. Not the repentance of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, but an invitation to a different way of life. This new way is better, because it is the way we were meant to live all along. It is the Kingdom of God life. So, what does the kingdom of God look like?
     Even the best and brightest that God ever sent only described it in parable. I think more for our sake than for his lack of understanding. The kingdom of God is like a man who owned a hundred sheep, and one wandered away. He left the ninety-nine and went to look for the one, and when he found it he wrapped it in a robe and brought if back home and celebrated with the ninety-nine. The kingdom of God is like some guys who stood around in the middle of town waiting for work and a vineyard owner cam a few times that day and picked some people to work for him. He even came back late in the day when all of the capable workers had gone home and he chose those who no one would hire for their lack of skill and education, and then at the end of the work day he paid everyone a days wage. Jesus came to invite us into the life we were made to live, in which we realize a new type of power that is by and large contradictory to the ways of the world. So, how does Jesus define power?
     Blessed are poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst. Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted. Power is found in a man who says, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus has called us into a new kind of caste, and the saved see it as better that the way of the world. Better than capitalism is when folks give to the poor, and better than countless exploits of women is a life spent with one woman, and better than thousands of years in the best time and place that can be imagined is one day in the Kingdom of God. Salvation means always coming (implying continuation) to a realization of a new reality. Salvation means that one spends the rest of his life in biographical reconstruction, he makes his story the very same as the kingdom story. So what’s the deal with this story thing?
     Everyone has a story. Jesus’ invitation is for one to make his story and the kingdom story one in the same. One’s story will always be unique. It will always look like him, but if he takes Jesus’ invitation seriously it will also look like the kingdom. I don’t mean that Christians are homogenized; I mean that we retain our uniqueness, while at the same time becoming more like Christ. So that eventually my story will be the story of Christ if He were Reno Wilson. That is the goal anyway. Some debate remains for whether or not it is attainable in this life. Usually when I get to the story part of the meaning of salvation some one says, “Wait, wait, that’s good and stuff, but we have strayed from the question. What must I do to be saved?” And, with my Church of Christ friends this always leans the conversation to baptism. So, is baptism still essential to salvation or what?
     My answer is yes and no. Yes it is essential, no it is not essential the way it is generally thought to be. I think we have reduced baptism down to so much less than it is. We have made it a simple transaction. I give God what ever He takes from me in baptism and He gives me salvation. I think we have missed so much of what baptism is and means. Baptism is an initiation into the community of faith and the Kingdom of God, and it is an ordination to share the good news of that kingdom. We have made it the moment of salvation, but it is not the moment, because salvation does not happen in a moment. Salvation is a life’s calling. Baptism is another piece of that life’s calling’s mosaic. I think we like our view of baptism because we can save so many people and have no real commitment to them. Salvation happens as a new biography is written, not as a single act of submission is preformed. If you look at baptism in this light then it becomes so much more than a single act of submission, it becomes a way of life. A Christian will spend his whole life living his baptismal story, and that is what salvation is.
     I want to say something about the back side of the salvation story. In my old way of thinking I could pretty much have done what I wanted after baptism. I was in. I still strived to be more Christ-like, because I figured I owed that much to Him. This new way I see salvation, however, has a back side that my old way didn’t have. It has implications for my life post emersion. I see a real call now to make the kingdom story my story, to live a baptized life, and to go and be saved. It isn’t enough that I am saved, I must be saved. I know it sounds almost semantic, but as I see my salvation as a rewriting of my narrative I feel bound to a new story. I hear the invitation into the kingdom life and I start to realize it is the way I was made to live all along.
     “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor and come follow me.” Jesus says it strongly. Repent from the way you were and come and see the way you were meant to be. Salvation is not about what you need to accomplish, it’s about whom you need to be; whom you were made to be. The man ran away crying not because he couldn’t do what Jesus said, but because he couldn’t be who Jesus invited him to be.


At 7:42 PM, Blogger Robert said...

This kind of goes back to the marriage analogy. When you are pronounced husband and wife, you become a husband, but you will spend the rest of your life becoming a husband. I think the same thing applies to salvation. At your baptism you are saved, but you spend the rest of your life becoming saved.


Post a Comment

<< Home