Looking back over all the biblical pictures of salvation you find many similarities. For one they are primarily about healing what is rather than escaping from this world. They reflect our craving for something better that the suffering of our society. In that sense, they not only report what God promises to do but also point to what we should be doing as we participate with God in making a better world.
Uppermost they promise good government. Throughout the Bible government does not have a good name. In the Old Testament God protests when people want to have a king rather than living in simple community under his leadership. And maybe 95% of the references to worldly government are about how lousy they are, because they never deliver on their promises. Sure Paul speaks about obeying the government, because it gives order. But Revelation makes no bones about saying Satan is directing the Rome Empire, Jesus’ words about giving what is Caesar’s to Caesar have to be read as indifference. He’s sort of saying stay out of trouble and work on what is really important.
Salvation offers community rather than government, a community which practices real justice, because everyone cares for one another. There is no longer a need for faith and hope, because now all live in love. All have enough, because all share.
Sometimes reading the Bible is like watching a modern Eastern Europe film where people live through the Nazis, the Communists, Cowboy Capitalism, and finally find happiness and contentment tending their own little gardens. However, the biblical pictures never come across as romantic. They are not hiding from the real world, but participating with God to make a better one.
The Lord’s Prayer echoes these pictures, asking that God’s will be done on earth, that we receive daily bread that is enough but not too much, and that we live safe from evil and temptation. The Communion does the same when it gathers the community around a table to share bread and sing that this is a foretaste of the feast to come.
I learned a lot while writing this course. Let me take off a few weeks to decide what to do next. I plan to start again some time in March. If anyone has any suggestions for another course, let me know.
It seems fitting to end with the picture of the Christian life and its salvation that appears in I John 4: 7-21 . “God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. ..No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the Day of Judgment…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
Amen, Come Lord Jesus. Make all things right, even if it means turning all upside down.