I wrote the other day about being saved and I wanted to clarify/deepen my thoughts and beliefs around this because ‘being saved’ is a very vague concept. What are we being saved from in Christ? The answer to this varies widely across Christians. I can’t speak for them (or you), but I’ll tell you how I see it at this present moment.
Some would say that believing in Jesus a certain way saves us from burning in hell for eternity after our earthly bodies perish. Though I can’t say this is untrue (I mean, who knows), it isn’t where I go with it.
From what I’ve picked up, in order to explain this, I have to explain the law/gospel dynamic (which I’m still learning about, so forgive my inadequacies here). This is the gist…
Even if it’s just imagined or subconscious, we humans have an internal debit/credit system that we carry in our hearts through life (aka, the ‘law’). When we do something bad to someone, we automatically think that we owe that person - even if we suppress that thought. We incur a debt. The opposite happens when someone wrongs us. We incur a credit. This turns into an intricate game between humans on the horizontal plane and sometimes we can work it out.
We treat God the same way with a schema of debits and credits. God either owes us either good things or bad things depending on how we look at it. Our God is not an unconditionally loving, graceful, merciful God - it’s a score-keeping damning/rewarding God. This is just the version of God that makes sense to the human brain, a God that looks and acts much like our fellow humans. The deepest existential question is, how do we all stand on the balance sheet?
Jesus came to end this notion of God. “It is finished,” is the banner that hangs over the Christian faith. If you’re into debts and credits (I’d say that we all are but that some are more willing than others to admit it), Jesus paid it all for us (I’d say that he ‘had to’ because we needed him to, not some angry and bloodthirsty God). This is grace/gospel. It is the undeserved, unexpected, unrestrained love of God as shown through Jesus. Grace/gospel is the only thing that ‘saves’ the human heart from imprisonment and freeing it to love. The human heart must be loved (not punished) before it loves. Though God’s law is actually right (because the world would be a better place if we didn’t murder, steal, covet, etc.), only grace/gospel can free the human soul to live in accordance with the law. The law, in and of itself, causes the exact opposite of what it exhorts.
Here’s an interesting way that I’ve heard it put… God is like the judge in the courtroom who slams down his gavel convicting us as guilty (as we see ourselves and each other as) before walking out from behind the bench, disrobing (as Jesus), being placed into cuffs, and executed on our behalf in order to free us.
We needed a judging God and payment as justice… Well, there it is. God did in Jesus what we could never do ourselves (in and of ourselves, we’ll never be enough).
Now, we are to live as free people without the weight of the ‘law’ on our shoulders. Because it’s impossible to truly love when we think we’re doing it to pay a debt. It’s also impossible to love when we think the good things in life are ‘owed’ to us.
In Jesus, we are saved from our sinful (perpetually law-breaking and score-keeping) selves. God only sees the perfection of anointedness (Christ) in us as in all of creation. The tradition that I follow says that ALL of us- not just the ones who say a certain prayer, think a certain thought, or believe a certain way - are unconditionally and undeservedly beloved by God.
Here’s where ‘faith’ comes in... Unless we consciously accept this promise of salvation, we won’t live with the embodied experience of that good news. We’ll move through life restricted by debits and credits for ourselves, God, and others. This is what Christ came, died, and rose to save us from.
Forgive me if this seemed like a lot of theological gobbledygook, but that’s how I see it now. I’ll keep you posted as this story develops:)
Grace & Godspeed,