In many Christian circles, the word used to describe our salvation experience is being “saved.” I spent several years during my teens very involved in the Baptist church and that was the term most often used to indicate a person’s spiritual “status.” Saved or unsaved, born again or lost, in or out. The bible certainly supports the idea that Jesus came to save us through His birth, His death, and His resurrection. When we invite Jesus to be Lord of our life, He indeed saves us from the consequences of our sin. We no longer have to be enslaved to our sinful nature. We are set free. But what about our relationship with the world after we are “saved?” I think this question is at the heart of this concept of servanthood that I wrote about yesterday.
It seems to me that there are two ways of looking at how our relationship with Jesus impacts our relationship with the world. Has Jesus saved us FROM the world or has He saved us FOR the world? I would suggest that one is based in fear and one is based in love.
If Jesus saved us FROM the world, then it makes sense to protect ourselves from others who believe differently than we do. While we may occasionally venture out of our safety zone to help those less fortunate than us, we have to always be on guard against those who would seek to draw us away from Truth. To some degree, we must be wary of those who are “unsaved” because they could corrupt our children and endanger the Gospel. Even among believers, procedures must be put in place to insure that we all believe precisely the same thing. Those who differ in their interpretation of scripture might be trying to water down the Gospel and that could be dangerous.
Clearly, I am being somewhat extreme in my characterization of this worldview, yet I see strands of this thinking throughout the Christian community. While most churches genuinely have a heart for those who haven’t yet met Jesus, it seems that some Christians are scared, or at least suspicious, of those outside their circle of Christian friends. What is even more tragic is the mistrust among believers of anyone who thinks differently than them about certain issues of theology and doctrine. It seems to me that these attitudes are based in fear, but fear of what? Fear that the Gospel is not, after all, stronger than the world? Fear that, after all, Jesus hasn’t conquered sin and death? Fear that God doesn’t win in the end and that He isn’t strong enough to save the world?
In contrast to this is the idea that Jesus saved us FOR the world. Jesus saves us so that we are free to be the persons that He created us to be. No longer enslaved by our sinful and fearful nature, and empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are free to join God in His plan to rescue the world. We are called, in love, to be the hands and feet of God’s grace and mercy to the human race. With this worldview, we are so grateful for the gift of grace in our lives, that we can’t help but share that grace and love with others. While we continue to resist evil, we realize that it is light that overcomes darkness and love that overcomes fear. We are no better than those who have not yet heard the Good News; in fact, we are so humbled by the grace we have been given that we realize that there is no room for smugness or pride in our lives. Because we are not perfect, we don’t demand perfection from others.
This view, it seems to me, is the basis of our call to servanthood. God saved us so that He could use us…use us as tools to save the world…use us to be His hands and feet on earth…use us to show His love one person at a time. Instead of guarding ourselves against a world that might corrupt us, we are called to enter into the world and serve the people whom God loves. Yes, we might get our hands dirty and we might get our hearts broken and we might feel confused and angry and hurt. But we must do it anyway.
Some days, I look at the world and want to curl up in a spiritual ball and hide. I want to lock my children in their rooms and not let the world get them. But Jesus behaved very differently when He lived here on earth and I keep telling my children that we should follow Jesus. So I am left with a choice….do we choose love or fear?