Summary of mtg 4th Oct'15 on SALVATION, led by Rev. Ian Gregory
Thursday 21st January 2016
The word 'salvation' occurs throughout Christian hymns, prayers and preaching. What do we mean by it? Traditionally it means being forgiven our sins in order to be allowed into an afterlife called Heaven. 'Sin' is the barrier which has to be overcome. Sin means being disobedient to the expressed commands of God. People today do not think of themselves as 'sinners' although 'sin' is a pandemic afflicting humanity. There is a basic fault which we all share, less a specific condition than a series of things wrong with us. Sin could be called a virus; Augustine talked of it as pride; also being blind, incomplete or lost. More easily people recognise personal shortcomings: greed, anger, envy, addiction, guilt etc. There are also many kinds of physical illness and spiritual, personality conditions which add up to 'sin'.
Moses did not tell the Israelites they were 'forgiven' because captivity was not their fault. Their problem was not that they had done wrong; it was that they were captive and needed to be released. Likewise today; for example, people who come before employment tribunals due to bullying, abuse, victimisation etc. from which they need to be 'saved'. That means being restored to the human 'default' setting.
We talk about obedience, with harsh consequences of disobedience. The remedy however, is not punishment, but transformation, being 'born again'. This is not driven or forced, but does require discipline and hard work.
Where does the Cross come into this ? Many of us are dismayed at doggerel 'choruses' which say Jesus had to die before God was prepared to forgive us. That is contrary to the love of God and the 'way' of Jesus. Can we really sing 'For what I have done his blood must atone... The Father has punished for his dear son ?' We now reject this way of thinking.
The Cross is:
1) REVELATION about the nature of the love of God. There is something in the universe that is benevolently disposed towards us. In an unutterably cruel world the last word is unashamed and unconditional love.
2) A PLEDGE from the heart of eternity that each human being has a place in the mind and heart of a loving God. Because of the Cross we know that the world can be a trustworthy environment in which to celebrate the miracle of life and find joy in it. It towers over the wrecks of time and startles this sad, cynical world with an unexpected offer of salvation.
In the discussion, following the Exodus story, it was said that salvation can mean freedom to be truly human and this can be viewed as an internal state of being and/or an external state.
It was suggested that the Cross alone was insufficient; we needed also the Resurrection. Ian commented that the Resurrection is the confirmation of that continuing love which was demonstrated by the Cross.