Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Salvation Apart from Others

Love your neighbor as yourself. Bless those who persecute you. Do good to all men. Be hospitable. Be kind and compassionate. These are all well known commands that describe our duty toward others, all applications of the command to love our neighbors. But what we sometimes miss is how tightly God considers our love and treatment of others with our love and treatment of Him. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God who he has not seen?” In other words, our salvation is not reducible to a mere snap shot of “me and God.” Of course, there must be a “me and God,” but that salvation necessarily always includes others. But these Scriptures require us to say this stronger. It is not merely that as a Christian you must be nice to other people, as though salvation were a float in a parade on its way to heaven, and loving your neighbor meant waving and smiling all the way down the street. No, Jesus says that He is bound so closely to His own people and to all those who suffer injustice and oppression, that when we neglect them, we have neglected Him. When Saul is confronted on the road to Damascus, Jesus demands to know why Saul is persecuting Him. True religion, James says, is caring for orphans and widows in their distress. In other words, God has determined not to be God without us. God has determined to be God with us and God for us. And if we have joined this God and His mission for this world, this means that there is no salvation for us apart from the salvation of those around us. Of course some will reject the gospel, but Jesus requires us to live as though our own salvation depended on the salvation of everyone around us. It is terrifyingly easy to turn this into some kind of merit mongering, like inviting friends to sign up for some service so that you can get kickbacks and rewards on your membership. But that’s not the only option. The other option is the way of love. You have been loved, you have been forgiven, you have been shown mercy, and when that reality pours down over us, how can we not overflow in grateful love, forgiveness, and mercy.

1 comment:

Gene Helsel said...

Nice work Toby. Spot on. Thanks!