Salvation: Do We Have It All Wrong?

October 1, 2011


What does it feel like to be saved?

Are you saved by what you believe?

I use the term “saved” cautiously, knowing that it won’t communicate what I mean to many, especially (but not limited to) my atheist friends. But I want to be clear: Living into the Way of Jesus is neither a set of beliefs you subscribe to, nor a set of actions you aspire to.

There’s a longstanding see-saw debate among Christians: Are you saved by what you believe? Or saved by what you do?

If I may I be so bold: No. And no.

Actually, the word “saved” isn’t a tripping point only for atheists, is it? Hey Christians: If you think being saved means “going to heaven when you die,” well, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe “enlightened” is a better word? Or drawing from the ST:TNG episode Darmok: “Sokath, his eyes uncovered!” The world opens. Everything changes.

For some (like me), the first time was sudden, like a switch being flipped. For others (like Kay) it was gradual, more like a dimmer switch. Either way, there’s a light that makes all the difference. Sokath, his eyes open.

So what does it feel like to be saved? Here’s an illustration, of the switch-flipping variety. And literally, it is a switch being flipped — of a cochlear implant in a woman who has never heard before.

The world opens. Everything changes.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, regardless of your spiritual inclinations or lack thereof. Leave a comment below!

Photo by Thomas Hawk (license)

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

12 responses to Salvation: Do We Have It All Wrong?

  1. Or you could be like C.S. Lewis, dragged kicking and screaming into belief in God.

    • For Lewis, that was a process, not a sudden thing, right? But sudden or gradual, an inexorable force.

      • For Lewis, as I understand it, it was a realization that all of the logical positions that he had in the world against belief in God were no longer tenable and his heart was being pulled in that direction. That is probably a generalization but that is what I remember reading.

      • I can relate to that, my trip to to Jesus was two years from the time I began until the time I came into a right relationship with him.

  2. What all of fallen humanity has been save from is a pre cursor for what we’ve been saved for…

  3. “The expulsive power of a new affection…” Thomas Chalmers

    • Hmm, I’d never heard of this person, or that message. Researching… Interesting…

      • Off the point…but another great Chalmers quote and one to hold as a guide for purpose in this life…”Live for something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy, on the hearts of thousands you come in contact with year by year; you will never be forgotten. No, your name, your deeds, will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind as the stars on the brow of evening.” Not so off the point if you see this as a sign of salvation in one’s life.

  4. Acts 16:31 does not say, “Live into the way of Jesus and you will be enlightened.”

    • But how do you explain what “saved” means, without using the word itself? We can’t speak in tautologies, especially in post-Christian cultures where non-Christians have incorrect associations with the word, and Christians have incomplete associations.

      “Enlightened” was a simple attempt at coming up with an alternative word that might help some people understand the amazingness, beyond their preexisting associations with “saved.” The video is a better one — not a synonym, but more like painting a picture.

      So what synonyms or imagery can you come up with?

      • Try the synonym “rescue.” Draw a picture of a life-and-death situation from which a person is unable to rescue himself/herself. Then make sure to say that Jesus is the one responsible for the rescue. Rescue doesn’t happen by means of a perspective shift, a different way of looking at the world. Rescue happens because of an objective reality that He has effected.
        Moreover, people are rescued by means of recognizing (read: believing) that Jesus is the Rescuer, the one powerful enough to rescue, the only one who can make and keep them safe. Their lives (and ours) depend on Him actually being who He says He is.