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On Being Saved

The central message of the Christian religion seems to be its emphasis on "being saved." The evangelical will meet you on the street and urgently inquire, "Are you saved, brother?" When my daughter married a Jew, a friend approached me one day shortly afterward and, with earnest but misguided passion, asked, "Has he converted yet? You know, if he doesn't, he's lost!"

All of this emphasis on salvation seems to be based on Jesus' comment in John 3:5: "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." This is made more specific by the writer of the book of Acts when he says in 4:12: "Salvation is to be found through [Jesus] alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us."

Now, just to be perfectly up front, I taught the doctrines based on these verses for at least half of my 40+ years in the ministry. I laid it out with the best of them: "If you don't get saved, you face an eternity in hell." "All other roads lead to damnation - Christ alone can save." "You must be saved!" "Today is the day of salvation." Etc., etc.

It finally dawned on me that, as Christians, we were worshipping a very incompetent God. This creator was such a poor baker that he burned every single cookie he ever put into his heavenly oven. Ruined them all. Messed them up so badly that they all had to be thrown out. Except…that he allowed his assistant to come along afterward and scrape the black off the bottoms of his ruined cookies in order to salvage some of them.

What a sad vision of God! The God I have come to know doesn't deal in damaged goods that need to be rescued from the very nature which he created in them. What would make us want to worship a deity like that? My God created us with a glorious potential which is laid out clearly in the very first chapter of the Bible: "God created human beings, making them to be like himself." (Gen 1:27) Now, unless you think God is a sinner destined for hell, being like him means that we are not only secure, but that there is no limit to what we can achieve.

And that means, we don't need to be saved! We are saved by virtue of the fact that we are part of God. God is not going to reject his own essence, and that is exactly what we are. In the same way that you are part of a family by being born of your parents, we are an eternal member of the heavenly community/the kingdom of God/the spirit world by being part of God.

It's clear to me now that the Christian church is pointing its people in exactly the opposite direction from which they should be facing. All this emphasis on salvation means that many people come into the church with a very selfish agenda - making sure they get saved so they can avoid the fires of hell. And when they are assured that they are saved, they consider themselves more acceptable to God than those who are not saved. In other words, it's a very introverted program that appeals to the worst in people - fear and ego.

If on the other hand, we could finally realize that God saved us the moment he conceived of us, we could stop all this fear-mongering about the fires of hell and realize that the reason we are in the church is not to save ourselves but to save the world, to turn it into the Kingdom of God on earth.


Posted 10-1-04

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2004