By Stephen W. Hiemstra
What does salvation really mean?
As an aquatics instructor at Camp Ross in Goshen Virginia, I was confused. Members of the staff would talk at dinner about having rescued a scout or saved another camper that week. I would think to myself: I don’t remember any water rescues? Did I miss something? Several weeks passed before I realized that a rescue involved talking a homesick scout about not calling home for mom and dad to come pick them up.
A rescue at Camp Ross was not a lot different from salvation in the Old Testament. The story of Gideon is emblematic. The people of Israel sinned in the sight of the Lord so the Lord gave them over to the Midianites (Judges 6:1). After seven years of bondage, the people cried out to the Lord (Judges 6:7). The Lord heard their cry and raised up a savior, a young man named Gideon (Judges 6:12). This pattern of behavior is sometimes referred to as the Deuteronomic cycle: sinning, being given over to this sin, crying out the Lord, and sending of a savior (Deut 30:1-3). This same pattern is frequently repeated throughout scripture.
One of my great frustrations over the years has been the need to remind people of their own obligations. The role of an Old Testament prophet as to remind the people of Israel of their covenantal obligations, minimally the Ten Commandments. The role of government lawyers is to remind their agencies of their legal obligations while their economists remind them of their obligations to pursue efficient, effective, and equitable policies. The role of the pastor is frequently to remind people of their obligations to God, to their families, and to maintaining their own health and safety. still, some people seem bent on their own self-destruction and will not be denied.
In the absence of God, we frequently fall into a pattern of self-destruction. Preventable illnesses, like obesity, suicides, addictions, and corona virus, routinely kill people or reduce their life expectancy. Wanton self-destruction is a sad thing to watch, yet it is as common as dirt.
When we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we are able to live into our creation in God’s image. God is good; he loves us; and he wants us to live meaningful lives. What we see God doing, we want to do. We want to be good; we want to love those around us; we want to fulfill God’s intention for us to live meaningful lives. In accepting God into our lives, at a minimum we refuse to self-destruct and in providing the Holy Spirit God makes sure that we don’t have to.
Salvation has eternal significance, but it begins the moment we accept Christ and refuse to be given over to self-destruction, as Satan surely intends.