Our misunderstanding of salvation

I have been rekindled in my thoughts concerning “salvation” the past few years. We have such a truncated version of “gospel” that we try to keep it reduced to something like, “Jesus came to save you so when you repent you can know you go to heaven when you die.”

This is very limited and it is proving to be very weak. I’ve never articulated this very well, but it’s been a driving force in my life for over a couple of decades. Of course, N.T. Wright helps me say this so much better:

The early Christians did not focus much attention on the question of what happened to people immediately after they died. If that question came up, their answer might be that that would be “with the Messiah” or, as in Jesus’s remark to the dying brigand, that they might be “with him in paradise.” But they seldom spoke about it al all. They were much more concerned with the “kingdom of God,” which was something that was happening and would ultimately happen completely, “on earth as in heaven.” What mattered was the ultimate restoration of the whole of creation, with God’s people being raised from the dead to take their place in the running of this new world. Whatever happened to people immediately after death was, by comparison, unimportant, a mere interim. And however much it might seem incredibly, the early Jesus-followers really did believe that God’s kingdom was not simply a future reality, thought obviously it had a strong still-future dimension. God’s kingdom had already launched through the events of Jesus’s life. Unless we get this firmly in our heads, we will never understand the inner dynamic of Paul’s mission. (Paul: A Biography)

I have decided to live my life more concerned with the “kingdom of God.” There is a kingdom that has come and I desire that kingdom’s will to be implemented on this earth. The ultimate restoration of creation is the vocation to which we are called, and have been called since the beginning. We are to restore shalom to the land by the power of the Spirit.

Our truncated view of the gospel as white conservative evangelicals has seriously damaged our ability to see what GOSPEL is about in this world. So much so, we abandon so many matters of justice and put them in the nice and neat category we want to conveniently ignore: social justice.

The gospel… and King Jesus… is far more than what we have believed. I want my vision expanded. I want my life expanded.


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