Someone in a desperate battle to escape his brokenness might reasonably look to scripture to visualize healing with God’s help. The concept of salvation and the scriptural basis for it, however, evoke markedly different reference points across different traditions.
Jews recall God’s acts to save his chosen people—parting the Red Sea, sparing Nineveh, and preserving Noah’s passengers. There is a rich diversity of views about redemption within the Jewish tradition. Orthodox Jews believe in the promise that a human messiah will unite the people of Israel and rule in peace. The most Orthodox Jews adhere to the most literal interpretation, wherein the messianic era will lead to supernatural events culminating in bodily resurrections of the dead (leading traditional Jews to shun cremation, embalming and organ donation). At the other end of the spectrum, Reform Jews believe it is each individual Jew’s responsibility to live as if the coming of the messianic age rests on her own shoulders, giving rise to the social justice imperative. People are saved when they turn to God and do as he commands in faith. Reform Jews have altered traditional prayers to refer to “redemption” rather than “redeemer.”
Christians look at salvation on the individual level and put Jesus front and center. Despite Christians’ universal focus on Jesus Christ as savior, Christians diverge on the interpretation of salvation. Some view it as eternal life after death—which can be understood as bodily life or life of the soul—paid for with Jesus’ blood. Others view salvation as pertaining to life here and now, before death. For those, salvation is about relationship, specifically the new way to relate to God (new covenant) and to each other (Kingdom of God on earth) that Jesus taught through his words and living example. Still others view salvation as the daily life we receive from God.
Both Testaments teem with references to salvation, giving seekers encouragement and hope. Here are a couple from both Old and New Testaments:
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 15 My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. (Psalm 25:5,15)
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Much of the bible was written in times when external enemies posed very present threats, so salvation carries an unmistakable socio-political connotation. In parallel, the external enemy stands as a metaphor for the enemy within. For those who are broken, the bible’s words of salvation speak just as powerfully about deliverance from our very selves—from elements of our personalities that lead us to seek self-satisfaction over God’s will, dragging us down and away from him and the life we desire.
Leave it to the Twelve Step tradition to sum it up best:
I tried my way. My way didn’t work.
I tried God’s way. His way works.
“I tried God’s way” is surrender. “His way works” is salvation.
Join the conversation. What saved you form bondage to self?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.