The Salvation of God

(The Nationalist, 8 Dec. 2006)


When the word salvation is mentioned maybe we feel we don’t need it. To the self-sufficient or self-satisfied, talk about salvation is meaningless. Yet for example, everyone experiences ignorance, in uncertainty about the meaning of life; sin, when we are troubled by the evils in our world; guilt, in the moral failures of our own life; suffering, in the insecurity of life; and the seeming end of everything in death.

Humanity has a great capacity for daydreaming its way through life. The twentieth century was the most violent and murderous in human history. It was the century that invented the concentration camp and the mass mechanization of killing. In the present century, the slave trade exists on a huge scale. Counter-trafficking organizations estimate that about 1.5 million girls and women are sold into slavery, and trafficked for the sex industry, each year. That’s nearly twenty times the level of the African slave trade in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries! Half of them move through countries of the EU, including Ireland. In addition, there are seemingly insoluble problems of war and peace, the arms trade, Third World debt, environmental destruction, three genocides in the last 20 years – Rwanda, the Balkans and Sudan. The drug trade is out of control, and alcoholism and other addictions drag many down to the gutter. Do we really think we can solve it all by DIY? The record is not re-assuring.

What is salvation? It’s about making whole and well what is negative, destructive and damaging to human life. It means freeing people from all that dehumanizes them, including sin. It’s about society as well as individuals. It is communion of people with God, themselves, and nature.

Salvation is not only a promise for the future, but something for here and now, wherever that may be. God created in order to save, and God saves in order to create, to generate creativity. That applies to the natural world no less than the human. Wherever there is wholeness or healing, whenever things are put right, that points back to God’s saving power as its source.

Jesus is one who reveals God to us; he leads us into an encounter with God. He also reveals to us what it means to be human. He shows us what God wants people to be. He underlines the connection between human action and the state of things. Salvation is integral; it cannot touch a so-called spiritual dimension of people’s lives and not include their activity in the world. Salvation is not about being saved from the world, but saved in and through the world. Jesus showed us that, too; he was God’s saving presence in the world.

Saint Augustine said, ‘God created us without us, but did not will to save us without us’. Salvation is not merely salvation from, but also salvation for. For what? Jesus said, ‘I have come that people may have life and have it to the full’. (John 10.10) That’s salvation. He is its example and motivator, and we are his partners in the process.


For those in a hurry: ‘Jesus seemed highly allergic to perfect people… he got along best with the broken and the neurotic’. (Jack Pantaleo)