work…

I don’t know about words like “salvation” and “saved.” I don’t know what those mean in this post-(insert culturally relevant trending word here) world. I didn’t know what they meant in the modern world or the ancient world. I was raised Catholic. We didn’t talk about being “saved.” I have no idea when this first rose up in the vernacular. I have strong likable theologian friends I could ask it’s meaning, I probably will ask them next time we find ourselves in the same space at the same time.

Truth be told it’s a phrase that only causes me to react with much grumpiness and disdain. This idea held by so many in the christian faith that 1)it’s about getting in and 2)it’s about saying the words to get in.

I have no idea. I don’t understand faith as being a thing which requires a one time admission fee. I also do not understand the idea that my admission might be revoked, that there is some divine fine print on this ticket. I don’t understand it and I don’t buy it. I’m not buying THAT ticket.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not asking you to agree or disagree or confirm or deny this thinking. I’m quite content with my perspective and in my opinion for as long as one is content with one’s perspective it’s unlikely he or she can be convinced of adopting a new perspective. If this view stops working for me then perhaps I’ll entertain another view but until and unless that happens, I’m just telling you what I think and that I’m not struggling with that.

My struggle ISN’T that other people have this ticket punch view of God’s work in us, our belonging to Him. My struggle ISN’T that they make it sound “easy” to get “salvation.” It’s not really the terminology. It’s the idea that following Christ is formulaic. You say this prayer and you’re in, then depending on which flavor of christianity you choose you stay in forever or can lose this “salvation.” I disagree. A lot.

Relationship with God is relationship, not contract. He is Creator, not corporation. The beginning of our understanding of the real-ness of God isn’t in saying words, it is in HEARING them. I believe that God speaks constantly to us, cradle to grave. He never stops speaking, that simply does not happen in my estimation. That we stop listening, as the mood suits us is more accurate in my estimation. The ball is firmly in our court. Maybe that is where the whole “saying the words” gig started, I dunno. There is power in saying words, I believe that. I’m all over that action. And yet, friends, so often what saves us, most often what saves us isn’t what we say but what we hear and what we heed.

Once we hear and heed the good words we get from the One who made us we have a choice to make. Actually, we have a load of choices to make…every day…every moment… Each word we give to someone is a choice, each action we take, the smallest action is a choice. It’s the sum of our words and our actions that shows our real character after all. It takes time to build this and it takes a lot of hard choices. I talk about faith as being a marathon but it’s weight training for the soul too. One session doesn’t do it. The decision to JOIN the gym is a statement of faith but it ISN’T the strength you seek, it ISN’T the health you desire. It’s the hope of those things, yes but it’s not even close to being enough.

I could rant this way for hours and I’m sorry for that, the ranting I mean. I am cultivating an attitude of love, I promise. I am working on turning judgement away in favor of embracing even those with whom I disagree. And you know….it’s HARD WORK. That is the nature of this faith, embracing and loving those with whom I disagree and dislike is the work of this faith. I suppose that is why the idea that the path of the Christian is individualistic and contractual is so distasteful to me. It’s a “bait and switch” method of bringing people into a story without disclosing the gravity of this choice.

The choice to follow Christ is not as easy as pushing the Staples button, the choice to follow Him is every day reaffirmed, every moment rearticulated. It is difficult as it is rewarding. It’s struggle if we do it well…it’s in the struggle that we find the reason we began, the reason we go on. With each new struggle and each new engagement we find the voice of God is clearer in us, more recognizable from the multitude of voices that press in from all sides. The voice of God is stronger each moment we push away the resistance from deep inside of us in favor of being healthy, being faithful. This is the reward and it’s work.

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3 thoughts on “work…

  1. Have you read Christos Yannaras’ /Elements of Faith/? (Yannaras, along with Hierotheos Vlachos and Pope Benedict, is one of my favorie contemporary writers in the field of religios studies.) In that book, Yannaras has a wonderful discussion of what faith entails that draws on personal relationships such as longtime business partners doing deals “in good faith” and the “faith” that spouses have in each other after a life time of marriage. That idea, that faith is a profoundly personal experience that develops over a lifetime, seems to me to be very close to what you’re getting at in this essay.

  2. I ike how you think and how you express it. The once only ticket has no foundation but your final part is spot on. Faith is trusting in that relationship everyday. No religion will support that as it seeks in one way or another to control and conform.
    By faith we are set free, we live by faith which is believing in the things that are not as though they are (answers on a post card) its that knowing that you know. Easier to live than explain.

    Found you through twitter by the way.

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