Theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes, “The work of Jesus was not a new set of ideals or principles for reforming or even revolutionizing society, but the establishment of a new community, a people that embodied forgiveness, sharing and self sacrificing love in its rituals and discipline. In that sense the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ’s message but to be the message.”
His words remind me of something Fred Craddock likes to say. “The work of grace is to make us gracious.”
The church is called to embody forgiveness, to bear Jesus’ love and act with grace toward all. We don’t live like this to earn our salvation. That act was done by God through the power of love over death, once and for all. We get a little confused about this though.
A while ago I was in the Phoenix airport waiting for a flight to Kansas City. A young man walked up to me. He asked, “Are you saved?” The man was sincere and we had a nice chat. He wanted to know about my confidence in eternal life.
But his query struck me as odd since the biblical notion of salvation is overwhelmingly concerned with the one life we have to live on this earth and only secondarily with the life eternal.
Salvation in the early church had to do with converting from living for your self to living for God and others. It was about turning from selfishness and turning toward selflessness.
The early church used to call it The Way. When you became a part of the way, you discovered who you really are and began to grow into becoming the unique and marvelous person that God has created you to be.
Bruce Van Blair writes, “The commitments of the Christian life are not about something we have to do to get saved. They are about what we do to move our lives into the passion and excitement of the…Christian Way.”
This is an open invitation and a clear commandment to live our lives in love.
Grace and peace to you,