"Are You Saved?" - Fidelity of Betrayal Pt. 2

I had a man brag to me today: "When I talk to someone about faith, I don't ask them what denomination they are or what church they attend. I just ask them: are you SAVED? And THAT tells me everything I need to know..."

I didn't know how to respond (that's rare - I'm a loudmouth). How would YOU respond? Are YOU saved? What exactly does "saved" mean? Saved from hell? Saved from ignorance? Saved from ambiguity? Saved from death? Poverty? Disease? Unhappiness?

The word "saved" comes up a lot in Scripture - Old Testament and New - so I won't pretend there's no precedent. But in Luke 23 I read about Jesus' experience on the cross: "The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

But Jesus didn't save himself. Jesus died for his enemies.

I'm not a big fan of Paul, but even Paul said in Romans 9:3, "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers..."

Paul would have sacrificed his own salvation for others.

What if, at the heart of being "saved," was a willingness to give it up to save others? Maybe rejecting salvation is to truly BE saved - freed from the bondage of self-preservation. Finally more focused on OTHERS than self.

In Chapter 1 of The Fidelity of Betrayal, Rollins writes:

...there are a few who betray Christianity, not because they no longer believe in it, but because they believe in it so deeply, because they understand that unless the seed of our Christianity falls to the ground and dies it will remain a single seed, but if it is allowed to die it will produce many seeds.

With this in mind we may wonder whether the deepest cost entailed in embracing the radical message of Christ - that we lay down our life and pick up our cross and follow him - may not simply be the call to sacrifice our own life... but the call to sacrifice what we love more than our life... putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth. (pgs 24-25)

I don't see salvation as a light switch - turned on or off with the quick flick of the wrist. Salvation is a process. And if Rollins is right, that process begins working backward as soon as it starts working forward: unpacking and unloading all that it initially puts on.

My guess is, with the gentleman I talked to earlier today, that my answer would have been the wrong answer: "everything he needed to know..."

8 comments:

Adam ransom said...

I love your blogs.. they make me feel stupid but i love em keep on blogging.

madcat said...

Yes religion must die, even if it's Christianity.

Sue Van Stelle said...

OK, here is the natural skeptic at it again: "putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth." Does Rollins paint a picture of this? What the heck does it look like? How would you describe it to an 8-year-old? And if you can't describe it to an 8-year-old, is it anything other than just catchy, juxtaposed words? Does it even make sense to talk about "faith" without "religion"?

When people say that Jesus came to save us from "religion", I disagree. I don't think religion is the thing we need saving from. Egotism maybe. Individualism maybe. Abusive power maybe. But religion?

imho, the only way separating "faith" from "religion" makes sense is if we have bought into the hyper-individualistic, Jesus-and-me spirituality of our consumeristic age.

How can one have a community of faith practitioners without having religion? Isn't that the definition of religion?

Isn't religion a context? With no context, how can there be meaning?

Sorry, Peter, maybe Rollins covers all of this and I am all wet, but I'm not following him at all.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

Sanctification is a process. Salvation simply is. Sanctification is a weird word, but some concepts only work in Christianese.

Anonymous said...

Pete: As you know Bonhoeffer wrote about a religion-less Christianity. The context was a prison cell in the Third Reich: a country whose "Christians" had capitulated to embrace Hitler. Religion, in that context, was an adherence to form and ritual without a change of heart. To genuflect in front of a cross with a crooked cross (swastika) on one's sleeve was idolatry, apostasy, hypocrisy, a lie.

What we need is faith living and true practiced daily by those dedicated to God, following Jesus, repenting from those things that separate us from each other, from God and from our true selves.

Brent said...

I don't know the context of this man's statement. But I think his question "are you saved?" is all he needs to know. Because it is all he wants to know.

Rachel H. Evans said...

I live in a really conservative Southern town where "are you saved?" is a common question. I usually respond by asking, "saved from what?"

What I've found is that when people talk about getting saved from theirs sins, they are usually referring exclusively to what they believe are the eternal ramifications of their sins - damnation in hell.

But in reading the gospels, I've come to believe that Jesus wants to save us from the everyday ramifications of our sins - our gossip, our grudges, our prejudices, our pride, our materialism, our worry, etc. When I imagine what my life would be like if I followed the teachings of Jesus consistently, the words that come to my mind are "liberation," "freedom," "salvation."

Particularly among evangelicals, so much emphasis has been placed on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement that the focus has shifted away from following the teachings of Jesus (in order to be saved from sin) to believing in his atoning death (in order to be saved from judgment.)

Our obsession with the afterlife, in my opinion, has really clouded the beautiful concept of salvation.

Sue - I'm a natural skeptic too; I think maybe it comes down to how you define religion. Religion, to me, has always been sort of a mixed bag. In some cases, I see it augment and enrich people's relationship with God. In other cases, I see it poison people's relationship with God, divide people against one another, and result in ideological idols (which I think Rollins speaks about.)

Good post.

Peter said...

Rachel! Great response!

Some excellent issues raised in this string. I've been busy and trying to make time for response. Rachel, you said - quite eloquently (and graciously) - most of what I would have said! Thank you.

Sue, I hear you, and think your apprehension is wise. We come from radically different backgrounds but probably don't stand too far apart today. But I might be willing to give more up than you.

I don't think Rollins (or myself, for that matter) means "religionless religion" in the trite way I grew up with: "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship." That line has been so overplayed in my sphere that I'm tempted to say, "RELIGION is exactly what Christianity needs to get back to." Because we're too casual with God. Too ambivalent about history and theology. To lazy with our faith and practice. RELIGION is not the problem.

But the tougher question to ask is: is Christianity inherently good? And when I say "Christianity" I mean the evangelical, modern American version most of us are in. Has the Christian brand done more help or harm?

If giving people RELIEF from worrying about hell is the primary thing Christianity has provided, then I would argue that's not good enough. If taking care of poor people is primary, then there are plenty of non-Christian sources doing work just as good. If being "good people" (read: polite, clean, appropriately middle class...) is the primary good Christianity has done in, let's say - the West - then I'm not sure it's GOOD ENOUGH.

If Christianity truly bred better (healthier, realer, kinder) human beings, then to me, that's something worth talking about. And I'm not saying that's the case - I AM saying it's not obvious enough to me NOT to ask the question.

And I speak about Christianity as separate from Jesus or those things Jesus is doing directly in our world. Jesus exists inside and outside the organizational structure of Christianity. And some of the fruits of Christianity are from God, others are not.

My guess, Sue, is that you could point to more redemptive things you've seen and experienced from Christianity, than I could. And I'm not saying that's wrong. Only that it's OTHER from my vantage.

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