Salvation as Liberation 1

24 04 2008

One of the reasons that I get frustrated with the evangelical American church is the truncated view of salvation that we have.  Our view of salvation is generally limited to “admission into Heaven.”  A lot of people pay lip service to the fact that salvation is more than that, but the lip service doesn’t play out in real life.  We say, for instance, that coming to Jesus will make your life better.  What we mean by that is you go to church now, whereas before you weren’t going to church and you were miserable.  The trouble is, just as many people inside the church are as miserable as those outside of the church.

It seems to me that the problem stems from our selfish, individualistic view of salvation.

In the Old Testament, salvation is a term used to describe YHWH’s salvation for the community of Israel.  Salvation occurs when the people of covenant practice righteousness and justice.  And in the Old Testament, righteousness and justice are deeply connected with how the nation acts towards the hungry, the widow, the downtrodden, the alien.  If the rich neglect the needs of the poor, if the powerful do not seek justice for the weak, YHWH gets mad and it doesn’t go so well for Israel.

What would happen if the American evangelical church took on the notion of salvation as social justice?  How do we act out the principles of social responsibility that are so deeply rooted in the covenant of the Old Testament?  How do we rationalize the New Testament call to care for the “least of these” with American material wealth?

These are all things that I’m struggling through, and issues I want to see the church take up both on a large scale and in local congregations.  I wish the call to end poverty struck a chord with more Christians than the call to abolish homosexual marriage, for instance.

In short, salvation is a promise for the people of God.  Yes, it is a promise for the individual, but only insomuch as they are a part of the community of God.  That might strike some nerves in our individualistic, materialistic culture, but I think that it’s true.  Liberation from oppression is a task that the people of God must pursue if they are to experience the full nature of salvation.  Because, you see, salvation is not something that I get out of following Jesus.  Salvation is something that YHWH gives to his people.

Salvation is liberation, and liberation is salvation.

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2 responses

25 04 2008
Adam Moore

I think you’ll like this related comment. More Bonhoeffer from “Letters and Papers from Prison”:

“Hasn’t the individualistic question about personal salvation almost completely left us all? Aren’t we really under the impression that there are more important things than that question (perhaps not more important than the matter itself, but more important than the question!)? I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isn’t this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving one’s soul appear in the Old Testament at all? Aren’t righteousness and the Kingdom of God on earth the focus of everything, and isn’t it true that Rom. 3.24ff. is not an individualistic doctrine of salvation, but the culmination of the view that God alone is righteous? It is not with the beyond that we are concerned, but with this world as created and preserved, subjected to laws, reconciled, and restored. What is above this world is, in the gospel, intended to exist for this world; I mean that, not in the anthropocentric sense of liberal, mystic pietistic, ethical theology, but in the biblical sense of creation and of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

22 10 2015
Michael H G Mvula

The most important part in salvation is how to keep / maintain the salvation. This should be done by frequent fellowship with spiritual groupings, prayers, studying the word of God, meditating upon it and being counseled by those spiritually grown ups.

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