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Saturday, August 16, 2014


The Christian life was originally called "The Way." They were a movement within Judaism during the Second Temple Period (which ended around 70AD when the second Temple was razed by Rome). With the expansion from Hellenist Jews to actual Gentiles, the movement took on the identity of a separate sect and the moniker, Christian, was applied to them (per Acts this happened for the first time in Antioch).

I have written before about the Didache, which is arguably a very early document, perhaps predating some of the Gospels. At any rate, attributed to "The Twelve Apostles" it is the instruction, or training, in the way. And the Greek word for way is odos. Salvation (soterio) is the central theme of the Gospel, so I have  coined a word in my title to address the general idea of the way of salvation.

Reflecting on the "two ways" (a popular Jewish and early Christian idea) in our recent Thursday class (as we slowly read this ancient text) we saw that much of what it says can be found in two sources: The Jewish Bible and Jesus. Parallels in the language to Matthew are especially noteworthy. However, for us, the key is seeing what the authors describe as The Way of Life (and the antithesis, The Way of Death).

God and humans do not currently enjoy unity. We are incarnate in a world which 'is not God' and we have sinned which has intensified the division. In my belief, God allows the world to unfold according to the laws by which He governs it. He is active in the world by sustaining its existence and by interventions to "rescue, deliver, save, redeem" from time to time. He has a plan, and in response to our choices, He 'finds a way' to achieve His ends. Sometimes we make it easy for Him, other times not so much. God's choice to save is a grace.God's love is a grace. God's call to fellowship is a grace. It is not and cannot be merited or earned. It comes to us before we do anything.

Having encountered God's graceful offer, we are left to decide. (And the state of the world makes that offer less obvious than it would have been had sin not ruled us) We can reason that there is a God. We cannot, however, have 100% certitude. And the god of our philosophical reflection may be very different from the YHWH revealed to Israel, later revealed as the Father of Jesus, and later still discerned to be the Holy Trinity. Salvation is experienced rather than postulated.

The cross and resurrection of Jesus are central to the Christian belief in salvation. Our life, in response to that salvation, is therefore shaped by the scriptures which Jesus embraced and the words of Jesus Himself.

Our faith response consists of love and obedience. It has an ethical dimension.It also has some core principles. We are all debtors (there is enough blame to go around) and should forgive the debts of others (self sacrificial mercy) are a recurring theme in Jesus teaching on prayer and in parables. He was offended by Pharisees (more a metaphor than the actual people)  who wanted to divide the world up into "the guilty" and "the innocent." In Jesus' view, everyone was to blame (even if there were degrees of blame in general, and in particular circumstances). "All have sinned" is a harsh concept. It strikes at the root of human pride. It is also the basis for the need of salvation.

In a world without sin, Jesus is a wasted breath. In a world without sin, God need not show up, we can take care of it ourselves. In a world without sin, things are fine.

But the world is definitely NOT fine, not fine at all.
so there is need.
but first we must face the truth, we are all guilty. all. and there is enough blame to go  around. and we need to look in the mirror and repent of our own sin, rather than look out the window to cast blame... As Jesus said, why look at the speck in your brothers eye when there is a log in your own.

In the soteriodos, the way of salvation:it is grace, faith, repentance, conversion, love, self sacrifice, mercy received and mercy given. Not to earn salvation, but to actualize and live it.And it looks like dying on a cross.

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