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What’s your definition of salvation?

The road to understanding salvation in a way that made God a good guy was a long journey of questions...
The road to understanding salvation in a way that made God a good guy was a long journey of questions…

Salvation is one of those churchy words that means a whole bunch of good things to one group and a whole bunch of condemning things to another. Who isn’t saved!? That’s always a judgmental conversation. I wasn’t clear about biblical salvation for a long time. The definition of salvation I grew up with was too small and too individualistic to be great news for every person on earth, rich executives all the way to displaced people living in refugee camps and that created tension for me. I still think that if salvation isn’t good news now to all people in ways they can feel then it can’t be from God.

When I was young part of my transformation was realizing that the metaphysical good news about what Jesus did was actually physical as well. It touches every part of my being, and the beings of the people in most need in every part of the world!
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These Kalinga people from the Northern Philippines have a beautiful story of reconciliation and healing that has shaped their history. Kalinga Pride means a once violent people have now become people of peace and reconciliation.

During my journey with God internationally I started to see Jesus through new eyes…I saw Jesus through the eyes of a muslim refugee in the southern Philippines. I saw that Jesus was homeless, not safe, had and unstable childhood in his homeland and was living in fear of violence from Rome the governing authority of his time. (Want to talk about Romans 13 and how Jesus didn’t submit to governing authorities?) How big was the salvation Jesus needed from Rome? How big is the salvation the Muslims, or NPA’s or Lumads of the southern Philippines want from oppressive forces that steal their land and keep them in cycles of poverty?

How big is your salvation?

Biblical salvation is always modelled after the Exodus story. How effective was the salvation of Israel in the exodus? It touched every part of their lives:

  • Policial: Israel came to Egypt as an immigrant, ethnic minority looking for relief from a famine (Story of Joseph’s brothers). They had no political freedom or voice and needed political salvation. God lead them out of Egypt and gave them an identity. They are called children of the most high God and the children of The Creator with self determination and authority to shape their own future. That’s salvation!
  • Economic: They had no land and no way to sustain life in Egypt apart from the oppressive slavery system. They were an ethnic minority doing the dirty work of the kingdom who was controlling them. They had no economic power. God called them out and sustained them and gave them land! Land was a core promise in his gift of salvation (Exodus 6:8)
  • Social: They were subject to brutal treatment and beaten severely every day with the story coming to a climax as Pharaoh ordered every baby hebrew boy be killed at birth. Israel suffered the destruction of their basic human rights even into their family lives… God responds with parallel action and the climax of the conflict between the God’s of Egypt and The LORD is the first borns of Egypt all dining in one night
  • Spiritual: The battle for Israel’s service and worship was between The LORD and “All the god’s of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12). Isreal’s worship was hindered by their slavery and God free’d them to obey him and free’d them from the oppressive powers of the Godlike Pharaoh and the other Egyptian God’s.

The Exodus narrative is one of the bible’s primary reference points that affirm the biblical Israel (not the current political Israel) their identity as God’s chosen people. The biblical writers are constantly reminding Israel, “You were once slaves in Egypt and God called you out and saved you.”

As Dr. Christopher JH Wright has said, “It is the Exodus that provided the primary model of God’s idea of redemption [and salvation], not just in the Old Testament but even in the New, where it is used as one of the keys to understanding the meaning of the cross of Christ.

Embrace the journey of asking the question: How big is salvation in the bible? Is it big enough to heal a burning world? If you don't think so, is God really that great after all? Jesus shows us yes! But, everyone has to reach that conclusion on their own through honest discovery, study, community and prayer.
Embrace the journey of asking the question: How big is salvation in the bible? Is it big enough to heal a burning world? If you don’t think so, is God really that great after all? Jesus shows us yes! But, everyone has to reach that conclusion on their own through honest discovery, study, community and prayer.

Conclusion

Salvation is big! Its big enough to heal all relationships and redeem all injustice. Peace and justice together make up the scope of biblical salvation. Right relationship with God, with out neighbours, a peace-filled personal identity and harmony with the whole creation is the fruit of God’s salvation. It is the vision of the world that we experience in glimpses every day and the vision we are walking towards as God’s spirit daily speaks to us and show’s us the way.

This is one reason I love PeaceChurch: We are a community of people who are walking the path of this BIG Exodus shaped & Jesus centered salvation!

For more on this check out Chapter 8 of Dr. Christopher JH Wright's book "The Mission of God" or his less academic book "The Mission of God's People."
  • Wes Bergen

    I agree that we need to rethink salvation. So I wrote a book on it. Sorry, but I completely disagree with exodus as a starting point.

    • Edem Morny

      And where will you prefer we start at?