Friday, March 13, 2009

Still Saving...Please Don't Turn off X

Most of this probably comes from my Presbyterian upbringing, but there's something I've never understood within the evangelical movement. What I find particularly baffling are statements like: "It's been six years since I was saved." Or "I got saved watching a Billy Graham revival on TV." Or harder still: "Have you been saved?"

Maybe it's because I'm running a different Spiritual OS, but ce ne computez pas. I do understand the need for powerful spiritual experiences that help define and reinforce our relationship to God. I do feel and have felt the intensity of a sudden heart-driven response to the divine presence.

But I think we're overreaching when we try to define those moments as the specific point in time when we "were saved." In fact, defining salvation in that way can be deeply counterproductive, for two reasons:

1) It's just too easy. Praise team cranking, pastor belting out the percussive alliteration, you get caught up and swept up and Badda boom! Badda Bing! I'm saved! If your spiritual growth never needs go beyond that moment, it's too easy to end up in a stunted and static faith.

2) It doesn't leave any room for the realities of our ongoing stumbling and weakness. You've been saved, gol'dangit. Justified! Sanctified! Washed in the Blood of the Lamb! Preacher said so himself when you came up to get baptized. How can you possibly be struggling? How can you possibly still be tormented by doubts?

Salvation is, instead, a life-long process of building a relationship with God, the Beloved Community, and the world around us. It is a growing, living, dynamic thing. We are, as Paul said to his dear friends in Philippi, always "working out our salvation with fear and trembling." If we approach our theology of salvation in that way, there's room for those days when prayers hang dead on our lips, or those nights when one little glass of wine somehow becomes a whole bottle, or when we find Firefox inexplicably pointed at www.scarlettjohansseninlatex.com.

Instead of viewing those stumblings as evidence that somehow gettin' saved musta not took right, we can instead see those difficult spiritual times as particularly challenging moments in our salvation walk. They are hurdles to overcome, a part of the journey, not evidence that we've deluded ourselves about God's love for us.

So to the question "Have you been saved," the only answer I can truthfully speak is, "I am still being saved."

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