What is Salvation?
Within the historic Christian paradigm (post Constantine) the idea of salvation was one of verbally acknowledging oneself as obedient to the authority of Jesus the Christ. This has mounted, even today, to saying a phrase back to a priest, a congregation or just privately to oneself. The phrase may be something like, “Lord God, I turn my life over to you and accept the gift of salvation offered by your Son’s sacrifice. I pledge my life to Jesus Christ now and forever.”
Some groups may require a baptism at some point, but this statement of faith is what is said to save a person from hell – hence their salvation.
But is that really what salvation is? Is it about being personally saved from hell? How does this work?
Christian thought while diverse, seems to agree on the idea that a blood sacrifice is required for the remission of sin. Pre-Jesus, this was handled by killing an animal and offering the blood sacrifice to God. Then through the crucifixion it is believed that Jesus stands in the gap for all of humanity (throughout history and future times) that will accept Him as their sacrifice for their sins.
Bridging the Gap
Sometimes it is visualized as a bridge overcoming the gap between humankind and God (Jesus being the bridge.)
What I found however, is that in my years within the church systems of Christianity, I didn’t see much change in people (or myself for that matter.) I have known people sexually abused by members of their church, I’ve heard the stories of pastor’s running off with a congregational woman and the stories of abuse of funds and fraud. It appears that while there is an immediate dedication to a new path, in time it wears down and the old nature emerges once again…
Do People Change?
I believe people can and do change – and this is what I believe true Salvation to be (the act of changing our awareness from the carnal nature to that of the Divine aspect.)
Unlike the idea of stating some message of faith, I believe real salvation is the overcoming of one’s personal problems. We all have personal issues. For some it’s the choice of watching pornography over sexual relations with their spouse. For another it might be an addiction to drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Each person has issues they are working on, but deep down we all have one thing in common:
It is that inner nature of purity (our source of creation) that allows us to change. By removing the layers of our false nature (the greed, hate, anger, lust) that we think is our “true self” we find the real source within. This activity of removing our nature and accepting the nature of God, is the product of outward change.
Salvation is Within
In Luke 17:21 Jesus is asked by a Pharisee where the Kingdom of God will manifest. Jesus replies that, “21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
While there is some modern debate to the meaning of “within” here, I believe the King James Translation above correctly identifies the meaning of God within us.
How Does Jesus Fit Into Salvation?
A person might ask, “If God is within us, why do we need Jesus?”
Jesus is a paradigm of salvation. By adopting the teachings of Jesus, one tunes to the heart of the Divine Source (Kingdom of God) within. While I am aware that Jesus said in John 14:6, “6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” this quote is often read quite literally. One might do well to meditate upon it, for it holds a deeper meaning.
Again – Jesus offers a way to God through the message He taught. While we often hear today that one must be baptized and repent of their sins and acknowledge Jesus as the only Son of God – Jesus Himself said something quite interesting in Matthew 25:31-46 and also in Matthew 19:16-21 – in both of these
passages Jesus tells people to change their behavior. To put others first, by giving food to them, meeting their needs. That doing such a thing will give a person eternal life and not doing it would bring eternal death.
There is a practice required, we must treat others well (especially our enemies) and we must acknowledge our errors. When we leave our selfish actions and adhere to the faith based actions built on unconditional love for even one’s enemies, then we change and that is the true salvation.
Salvation Equals Change
The very meaning of salvation is change. Yes, we make mistakes, but the ever evolving salvation that we undergo is our daily change. We choose one path over another. It’s hard and very challenging. How it is accomplished may be unique to each individual, but suffice to say it must be a spiritually based solution. It may require aspects of prayer and meditation. It might require actively doing good works.
Some will say, “But we aren’t saved by works – Paul the Apostle said so,” yes he did say that, but Paul is not Jesus. Re-read what Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46. Paul contradicts this several times in his writings… but Paul is not the source of salvation.
Where Paul might be going in talking about salvation is not by works, could be a focus on those of us who do something good hoping it pays off our bad works. Such people aren’t looking for lasting change, but rather a tit for tat. They lie on taxes, but give money to charity… in their mind’s it all works out. Perhaps on some karma level it does work out in the physical world… but it doesn’t create the lasting change. The world a person like this experiences is still difficult and challenging.
We must produce works that are good. Giving, for example, frees us from greed. Loving our enemies, for example, frees us from anger and hate.
There is a spiritual component as well… By prayer and meditation we break our thought processes.
Salvation as a Universal Force
This also means that salvation is a universal power – it can be change through Jesus (guiding us to the spiritual heart – to God) or through another path. Do not judge the paths of others. Be happy in their paths, as you are in yours. If you are not pleased with one path over another, change it, but do not do so thinking you must find the perfect path. Simply have the goal in mind to find God. Have that as your innermost desire and whatever path you are in, you will succeed.
A Buddhist may not believe in the traditional concept of “God,” but they too have a belief in something greater – Emptiness, Enlightenment… This too is a universal force.
Let’s not fixate on the speck in our fellow human being’s eye… instead let us focus on the mote in our own. We each have issues, let’s identify them (write them out if need be) and take one off the stack and work on it. Investigate how to overcome it. Find a solution in prayer, spirituality, changing one’s actions and even psychotherapy if need be. Do your best to find the Kingdom of God within you – for that is your salvation.