Many are aware of the way most North Americans and Europeans describe salvation. We sinned. The great barrier separates us from God since he is holy. God sends his son who dies in our place and now we have acces to God and forgiveness. I’ve grown up with this picture of salvation. It’s great in many ways.
– It recognizes sin
– It handles our guilt
– It is easy to explain.
Many in my own denomination and most Protestants in the western church have grabbed on to this image. And it’s not all bad. Many are on the ship of salvation because of this way of explain God’s great work. I know that I on some level have been saved by this narrative.
I recently read a story about a Japanese man who looked at the story of salvation through this lens. He made the point that it didn’t make sense in traditional Japanese culture, which is based on honor and shame. It’s difficult to think of salvation on these terms. It’s just flat out different from people in America
But we know everyone is different.
Every culture, family, judicial system, country, or whatever. There always something to throw you off and make you either frustrated or rethink your approach.
What does this do to explaining salvation? It opens the doors. When we think of missions and evangelism, we’ll need to know that some Christian language is foreign. And since it is foreign, we will need to develop understanding. There is one way to get to that understanding. Listen to their stories.
Some will have a bad father, so you might want to focus on God’s motherly attributes.
Some come from lands where there are dictators, so you might want to bring up the idea of God as King later.
Some will be glad to hear God is distancing himself, so you might want to say that God is actually pursuing them.
When we read the Scriptures, we see a God pursuing and connecting, even before Jesus comes to earth. Enoch walked with God. Abraham recieved the covenant. Jacob wrestled with Lord. David was after His heart. Even the blessed Mary, mother of Jesus, was talking to the angel of God before she was pregnant. If this God is making covenants and talking to His people, how separated should He be? Is He separate from us, sin, or both? God is very present in Scriptures, even in the Old Testament.
This would change the way you view the salvation story. God, a pursuer. Not a God who has built a wall. This is great news for any person coming out of a spirituality that is about escapism or distancing yourself.
What about Jesus Resurrection? We celebrate it every year and even our sundays are really little easters through the year. Resurrection shows us that God never gave up on us. The Christian story is nothing without it.
And for those who want to rest on Paul’s explanations, let’s explore Galatians 3. Galatians 3:7 says that the “real children of Abraham…are those who put their faith in God.” This chapter goes on to reference the Old Testament as looking forward to this time of salvation. In other words, all of Scripture is a history of Salvation.
The important things of salvation is found in the classic passage, John 3:16. God loved this place so much that he would attempt to connect with us, even in the form of his Son. Although we can reject it, God continually pursues us. We found ourselves slaves to death, but God offers a way out of death. If you read verses 16-21, you learn that God isn’t doing the judging, the world has already been judged by His mere presence through His Son. Believing is the thing that is considered accepting God’s way out of death, but to believe means more that just thinking that God is God. It has more to do with trust. Which means placing equal if not more emphasis on following God in real world situations and in action than in just confessing his existence.
I haven’t really explained the salvation story clearly for some of you, nor do I intend to. Salvation is simply this, God has come to rescue, so come to Him.
Instead of drilling it into someone’s head that they are a sinner and cannot connect to God in their current condition, try telling someone that God has been trying to connect with them despite them having sinned.
All the above said, one rule applies at all times. GET THE MESSAGE ACROSS CREATIVELY.
Once they decide to follow God, they’ll continue to grow.
Grace and peace to everyone.