Salvation: So much more than spiritual

Salvation is not about the afterlife. Salvation is something that happens in this world.

Yme Woensdregt

In the last few weeks, a number of people have asked me how I understand the whole concept of salvation, of “being saved.”

Church folk like to throw that word throw around a lot. “Have you been saved?” has become part of the jargon of the church. The trouble with jargon is that too often we stop asking what it means.

An online dictionary defines it this way: “salvation: noun (Christianity) the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil; 2: a means of preserving from harm or unpleasantness.”

Most Christians in North America agree with that definition. Salvation has to do with what happens to us after we die. On the cross, Jesus died and saved us from our sins, giving us a ticket to heaven after we have died.

The trouble with that understanding is that it’s too reductionistic. It turns Christianity into what Marcus Borg calls a “religion of requirements”. If we live the right way, if we believe, if we “accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour”, then we will get to go to eternal bliss.

In the Bible, however, salvation is a much larger and richer concept than that. Salvation is not about the afterlife. Salvation is something that happens in this world. The Greek word for salvation (the language of the New Testament) is the same word which is ordinarily used for “health” or “wholeness”. To be saved is to be healed, to be made whole. And that happens here, in this world, in this time, in this life.

Salvation isn’t just about getting the prize at the end of life. Salvation is a process in which we are constantly being transformed in an ongoing encounter with God. It is a process of renewal and transformation. We take a journey with God, in which we are being made whole, in which we are being healed, in which we are being transformed.

The New Testament uses many different images for salvation. The Gospel of John tells us Jesus is the light of the world. In that sense, salvation is about light shining in the darkness of our world, so that we can see reality through the lens of God’s love.

Another image used by John is to Jesus as the bread of life or living water. Salvation is about satisfying our deepest hungers. Jesus fills us and nourishes us and quenches our deepest thirsts in ways that consumerism and materialism never can.

These images, and others, are metaphors for salvation. As we receive God’s goodness, we are being made whole. We receive life in all its fullness.

The other problem for me with the limited understanding of salvation is that it’s so individualistic. It’s about what happens to me after I die. But Biblical faith is never private. In the Bible, salvation is intensely social and communal. The Old Testament tells the story of the creation of a nation, a new people, a community. Israel’s mission is to live together as people of God in the world. In the nation, salvation is about life together. It is about peace and justice, not only within the community, but beyond it as well.

The prophet Isaiah talks about Israel being “given as a light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” The prophet understood God’s purpose for the world to be one where all people lived together in justice and peace and hope. The purpose of life was for healing and wholeness, not separation and brokenness.

In the same way, the New Testament continues this social thrust. Jesus’ main message in the gospels is the “kingdom of God”. By definition, the good news is about community.

Paul went about the ancient world, setting up communities where people could learn to live together in ways of justice and wholeness. He talked about the church as a body, a community, with many members.

Salvation is God at work in our lives. We need to respond to God’s work in order for wholeness to be made real in us. Archbishop Desmond Tutu quoted Augustine in a lecture some years ago when he said, “God without us will not, as we without God cannot.” Without us, without our response, God will not heal our lives. We must participate in God’s project of reclaiming the world.

If Jesus is bread to feed our deepest hungers, then we must take and eat. If Jesus is light in the darkness, we must open our eyes and see. If Jesus leads us home, we must follow.

Salvation is the transformation of a person and a community in an ongoing encounter with God. It is about being open to the healing power of God’s love for ourselves as individuals, and for ourselves in community.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor of Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A case of Covid-19 was identified at Cranbrook Montessori Pre-School last week.
Covid identified at Cranbrook Montessori

A case of Covid-19 was identified at Cranbrook Montessori Pre-School last week.… Continue reading

The 2020 Wasa Triathlon was cancelled. Above, the bike portion of the 2019 event. Bulletin file
Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon committee is going ahead with planning 2021 event

Lots of uncertainty, but the committee has decided its too early to cancel

Bootleg Gap Golf Course has been sold to Simkins Golf Management Inc. for $3 million.
Bootleg Gap Golf Course sold to Simkins Golf Management for $3 million

After the decision was made to sell back in October 2019, Council… Continue reading

Dorothy Kilgallen, circa 1952 (irishamerica.com)
Booknotes: Fearless reporter among the greatest of all time

Mike Selby “Success has not changed Frank Sinatra,” wrote journalist Dorothy Kilgallen… Continue reading

1913
It happened this week in 1913

Nov. 29 – Dec. 5: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

The Village of Salmo has told Cody Puckett and Ashley Nelson that clearing land at this property doesn’t constitute building a property according to a bylaw. Photo: Submitted
Work in progress? Salmo family, village at odds over property construction

Cody Puckett says he’s being evicted from his own land, which the village disputes

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Richard Reeves examines a painted film strip in his home studio. Photo: Aaron Hemens
PHOTOS: Pandemic inspires creativity for Creston animator Richard Reeves

For more than 30 years, Richard Reeves has been creating abstract animated short-films by drawing and painting images onto strips of film.

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
First long-term care resident dies from COVID-19 in Interior Health

Man in his 80s dies following virus outbreak at Mountainview Village

Most Read