Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Essence of Essential 4: The terrorist and me

I like the catch phrase, "Many ways to Jesus; One way to God." I think I get the meaning. It embraces both the unlimited paths available for each person to come to the one path of God.

If Jesus really did come to save the world because God loved the world so much (and I believe He did), then how does that salvation happen?

When I think of salvation, I think of starting lines. In a fifty meter sprint, starting at the starting line is great. Not everyone has that opportunity. Some people start a million miles from that point. Where does an Iraqi who was born into militant Islam start and where does the suburban American been-going-to-church-since-I-was-born person start?

Could it be that salvation is not so much about location, as perceived by externals, but rather direction? Who is more likely to be saved: A person moving Godward from a milion miles away or a person moving further from God at fifty feet away? Maybe nearness and distance to God (or being saved or not saved) has little to with how people measure it, how denominations measure it, and how meta-groups (evangelicals, mainline, etc) measure it.

What if a terrorist put down his or her rifle because he or she just sensed that the God they know of does not really desire the kind of killing they have been involved in? What if that terrorist paid a great price for that renunciation of terror, even his or her life? Is it good? Yes, of course it is. But is that person saved? My fellowship would say no, because that person was not baptized. Another fellowship might say no because that person did not speak in tongues. Another would ask, "did they ask Jesus into their heart?" Jesus? You mean the prophet? Who asks prophets into their heart? Remember, people only know what they have been exposed to.

What kind of courage would it take for this terrorist to lay down his or her weapons? I'd wager to say a lot more courage than I have with my faith right now. Yet, am I saved because I "did it right" and he or she is not saved because he or she didn't?

Could it be that the terrorist was moved by the Holy Spirit, but didn't know to call it the Holy Spirit? Could it be the response was to the love of Jesus, but did not know what to call it? Could it be that this person, full of courage and "faith," could be responding to the gospel, but from what he or she knows of Christianity, would never ever dream of becoming a Christian? Could it be this person's salvation is a salvation from hate, anger, murder, and death to love, peace, and life? And then on top of that, a life continuing after a bodily death?

Did Jesus not see a greater faith in all Israel come from a Roman Centurion?


David U said...

Chris, I just want you to know that I have been reading your blog concerning the "essentials" these past few days and I appreciate so much your insights and the spirit in which you have been communicating them to us.
I think you are dead on right with your observations and conclusions. The concept of heading in the direction of God very much reminds me of what Rubel Shelly and John York talk about in their book "the Jesus Proposal". Have you read that? If not, I think you would be blessed by it. Anyway, keep blogging brother! I appreciate your wisdom!


Fajita said...

Thanks David.

Keith Brenton said...

Fajita, your example of the hypothetical terrorist fits a paradigm that I believe is Biblical: that grace, faith and works are inseparable components in the way God saves us.

The terrorist experiences a moment of grace; senses that his/her lifestyle is just plain wrong. Next comes the point of faith, renouncing in the heart what was wrong. Finally, the work that confirms that faith in what is right: he/she lays down the weapon.

Which component can you leave out and still have a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich? Bread? Peanut butter? Jelly?

I think grace, faith and works are part of the sandwich. Everyone needs to lay down something - at least one thing - to connect with the grace he/she has perceived.

For Cain, it was his murderous jealousy. For King David, his lust. For a rich young ruler, his wealth. For Saul of Tarsus, his perception of righteousness.

For your terrorist, the weapon.

But how could anyone possibly reach that point without the other two?