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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Salvation and Wholeness

The old Christmas carol goes, “Our Savior Christ Jesus was born on this day…”

Saved from what? Who needs saving these days? Who really is concerned about being saved by Jesus or anyone else? I love to sing the old and familiar carols and get to wondering what it means to be saved.

Mormons believe in the celestial kingdom and work on a plan of salvation to assure people will get there after they die. Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics believe that when they die, if they have lived a life of faith and are members of that church, they will go to heaven, a place of eternal bliss. I have a few gay friends brought up in those traditions who fear they will not only not go to heaven but will go to hell because they are homosexual. They have been brainwashed in the theology of those sects.

Salvation means deliverance from the penalty and power of sin says the American Heritage Dictionary. Some people believe they will be penalized for their sins, the evil things they have done or left undone. That penalty dooms them to eternal punishment in hell. Eternal damnation is what many people believe they are to be saved from.

The sins that we are to be saved from are violations of love and compassion and breaking of the Ten Commandments like stealing, murder, adultery, false witness, and dishonoring parents and God.

Some people believe that by accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord, they will be saved from their sins and go to heaven and avoid damnation. Some conservative religionists believe they must have an emotional and heartening experience of Jesus in their hearts and minds and then they will be saved from their sins. It can’t be a mere intellectual act of will; there must be an awakening, ecstatic moment, and an experience of the mystical presence of Jesus. Then once they have “found Christ” they are to be good and avoid all the sins and wrongdoing.

However, many Christians do believe in an intellectual assent to become followers of Jesus. Many believe that by following Jesus their sins will be forgiven and after death they will somehow rest with God in eternity.

The Catechism of the Episcopal Church makes no mention of salvation. The closest item we have is redemption…”the act of God which sets us free from the power of evil, sin and death.” When we celebrate the birth of Jesus we look forward to his suffering and death by which the church teaches, “...we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God.” (Book of Common Prayer p. 850.)

Here is what salvation means to me. After I die I am in some mysterious state known only to God. It looks like eternal sleep to me but the church teaches that we are somehow in God’s hands and we have no present knowledge of what that state is. Literature presents poems, stories, plays and even music to fill our minds and imaginations with what the after-life is all about. Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are two examples.

Salvation has the root word of salve, or healing, wholeness and health. We human beings can work though the sin, evil and pain we have caused others in confession, counseling, Alcoholics Anonymous or therapy. When we have dealt with the resultant anxiety and guilt, we approach a state of healing and wholeness. It is a life - long process. We never make it all perfect. We are always screwing things up and then we are able to acknowledge our faults, seek forgiveness and reconciliation with others and move on in life.

As a Christian I believe the gospel good news that through the life, death and resurrection Jesus Christ we are fully forgiven and reconciled by God. So I don’t worry about eternal life or life after death. I am called to live as full and healthy a life as I can here on earth and serve my brothers and sisters in the world. That is what makes the good and healthy and life. That is what I mean by being “saved.”

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