Everyone is trying to find salvation. They might not ask, “What must I do to be saved?” But everyone has some sense of what it is that would make them satisfied, fulfilled, and accepted: success in business, the admiration of men, a beautiful home, a liberated homeland, a secure future, the worship of women, a great body, wealth and prosperity, the acceptance of friends, a happy family, a dream vacation.
Think about the people you know. Think about yourself.
1. How do they define salvation? How will they know they’ve
arrived? “I’ll be happy, fulfilled, accepted if . . .”
2. What must they do to be saved? What law or rules must they follow? “To achieve this I’ve got to...”
3. How do they view people who don’t measure up to this law?
“People who don’t fit in are...”
4. What happens when they don’t measure up? “When I don’t
For the Pharisees it went like this: Salvation is national renewal. This will be achieved by personal purity. Those who don’t measure up, like tax collectors, sinners, and the poor, must be ostracized.
Every version of salvation involves a principle, a rule, a law. If your idea of salvation is to have friends accept you, then your first commandment will be: “Thou shalt not be uncool.” And uncool people must be avoided at all costs. If your idea of salvation is a beautiful home, then your prophet will be Martha Stewart. Your rule will be antique pine, tiled floors, and distressed paint. Or maybe clean lines, white walls, and no clutter. Your first commandment will be: “Thou shalt not be untidy.”
If other people don’t measure up, then we despise or avoid them. Yet, like the Pharisees, we need them so we can feel good about ourselves. And if we don’t measure up, then our “god” turns on us and condemns us. Life is seen as a race, and you’re a loser if you’re not successful, wealthy, or attractive.
But self-salvation doesn’t work. It doesn’t work, because none of these versions of salvation deliver. They don’t bring satisfaction, identity, or joy, because we were made to know God and glorify him. Anything less is a cheap substitute. They’re not salvation!
And self-salvation doesn’t work because we can’t measure up. If you want to be admired by blokes, but you’re not blokey enough, then you’re condemned. Even on a good day you’ll worry what others think of you. If you want security and prosperity, and you lose your job, then you’re condemned. Even when you have a job, you’ll be anxious, over-busy, and unable to say no. “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ ...” (Gal. 2:16).
The good news is that Jesus has not come “to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
He offers true salvation: being welcomed to God’s feast. And when we don’t measure up, we’re not condemned. Instead of condemning us, our God is condemned in our place. So salvation is found not through obeying any kind of law, but “through faith in Jesus.”
- Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit), 27, 28