The word “saviour” doesn’t often come up in conversation. Could it be that we are not in need of saving? Perhaps we face no imminent danger. Or perhaps there is nothing in recent history that reminds us of rescue, liberation, redemption or salvation. Maybe we can save ourselves through our own devices. Or maybe we are so inclined to view everything in shades of grey that a concept like salvation draws a line where we think there shouldn’t be one.
Considering the state of the world, we are indeed in need of salvation. Whether we recognize it or not, our quest for God’s saving grace takes various forms and motivates us to do many wonderful things:
- We are moved to pray and to care: I recently lost two friends prematurely to cancer. During their illnesses, prayers for them and their families invited rescue from aggression, pain and death. Although their bodies were not saved, they and their families received significant support during suffering and grief.
- We are moved to solidarity and generosity: As I write, Syrian and other refugees are fleeing destruction and violence. In shared efforts to save lives, people are praying, advocating, inviting, donating and helping to resettle refugee families.
- We are moved to thankfulness: I recently visited the dentist for the first time in a very long time and was more than a little uncomfortable about what a check-up would reveal. Although I was not saved from a mild scolding, I am thankful to God, as genetically strong teeth saved me from unwelcome dental work.
Is salvation needed only in times of physical crisis, or are we generally in need of being saved? While we may be cautious about practices and words that condemn or judge others, or suggest that our particular interpretation is the only way to salvation, we might reflect again on our personal and collective need for salvation.
Ironically, the western middle class desire for material security and financial “savings” reminds us of our innate need to be saved. Our pursuit of that kind of security reveals our misplaced trust. And our individual and collective sins reveal the woeful inadequacy of our own efforts. Recognizing and confessing this is one of our responsibilities as truth tellers.
A second responsibility is to reflect on Scripture and the coming of Christ. If Jesus only came to help us get along with one another, or to teach, make disciples, heal the sick, give hope to the marginalized, or correct those in authority, would the cross have been necessary? Grace, hope, mercy, forgiveness, gentleness and love save us from revenge, despair, judgment, condemnation, brutality and hate. We are saved through the cross of Jesus.
A third responsibility is to share our salvation with others. Salvation must move us towards courageous witness. Scripture is full of salvation stories. We need to accept our own place in this ongoing salvation story, and share it in our communities, across the country and around the world.
Tim Froese is Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister of Witness.