Thursday, April 16, 2009

have you accepted your own salvation?

Sitting in my Clinical Pastoral Education class, the Supervisor leaned towards one of the students and asked this simple question, "have you accepted your own salvation?" It was the kind of question that made a few of us sit up in our chairs and take notice due to its subtlety. If you had grown up as I had, you had heard "have you accepted Jesus Christ for your salvation?" many times. In fact, you had been coerced, rehearsed or forced to answer this question multiple times, sometimes in the same meeting. For many of us, the familiarity not only rang hollow, but brought contempt (as Willard has spoken of) for the line.

However, I had never heard this exact statement... not once. Probably just a throw away line by our supervisor to cause a student trying to control a situation and "play God" in the lives of others to reassess his issue, it struck me as terribly profound. To a person that comes from a belief system that considers personal salvation the epoch of human experience and importance, this hopefully causes a bit of dissonance. It is one thing for one to believe in the idea that he has been saved from something, but it is something else to look in the mirror of his life and see himself as no longer in control.

I am sure a few readers will disagree, thinking that "of course, we see ourselves in this light. We made a decision to accept this." However, others may realize that living this acceptance of our own salvation has more to do with issues such as control, power and self regard than it does with morality and doctrine. If I believe that I am finite, limited and unable to "save" myself apart from another (as I do- it is how I define "depravity") then an issue such as control may be the hardest part of salvation and spiritual formation. It is cuts to the heart of the narcissist in all of us.

If I am playing God in the lives of others, attempting to control them, or pushing my own sense of perfection or normalcy, then I am not living as one that accepted their own salvation.

If I am living as if God needs me to mount of defense or prove God's love, wrath, power and existence I have not accepted my own salvation from my own self and my own mind or control.

If I am trying to (as Bono eloquently put it) "help God across the street like a little old lady" which I see in so many of the Internet fights, pseudo conversations and debates over doctrine, practice and "truth," I need to be reminded of my desire to deify my own mind and its understanding.

I may need to realize that the hardest part of accepting my own salvation is accepting that I am no longer in control of anything, especially others. Sure, many of us give lip service to such a concept, but I question the ease of this for anyone with a healthy ego and sense of self, which means pretty much anyone in Christian leadership (preachers, theologians, college profs and bloggers). This has become a new question I ask myself on occasion, and it may be something I add to my repertoire when directing someone spiritually.

This whole thing has gotten me thinking about the flip side to Peter Rollins confession that he denies Christ's resurrection every time he does not:
serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I

speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.


Sarah said...

Thanks for this post, Rick. I'm in CPE right now, so this really hits home.

I'm pretty new to the Tampa area and would like to come to the next emergent group meeting. I'm wondering if the group is meeting in a couple days at Tre Amici, since it's the third Saturday. There hasn't been an announcement about it on the sunnyemergent cohort blog yet. Do you know about this? Thanks, Sarah

wallaceant said...

I'm planning on attending. It is my understanding that it is a standing appointment.

Look forward to seeing you there.

g13 said...

great post. thanks.