Full disclosure – this is one of my “exploratory” posts where I think through a theme in a relatively simplistic manner and arrive at a tentative conclusion.
Jesus’s offer of redemption and salvation is entirely positive. Not only is it entirely positive, but it is fundamental – the basis of Christianity – the foundation upon which everything else stands.
Christ’s offer of redemption saves us from death and sin, while His offer of salvation grants us the new possibility of heaven.
Therefore, redemption and salvation are entirely positive and are the basis of Christianity, and it only follows that accepting Jesus’s offer of redemption and salvation should be the chief aim of all Christians during their mortal lives.
Once again, no argument there. Embracing the gifts of redemption and salvation is the overarching spiritual imperative of Christianity.
Having said that, the manner in which these gifts are accepted matters – and it is from this that any potential “negatives” of accepting Jesus’s gifts arise.
To illustrate, I will utilize a rather weak and somewhat unsuitable “purely material” analogy to draw attention to this matter of “manner” in relation to the acceptance of Jesus’s offer of redemption and salvation.
Imagine a man living conditions in which he is desperately impoverished and essentially powerless. One day, an opportunity to inherit a vast fortune and considerable power presents itself.
The “manners” (or “hows”) through which the poor, powerless man could approach such an opportunity are many.
The first manner is straightforward – he could simply refuse the opportunity; however, from a purely worldly perspective, refusing the opportunity would ultimately be foolish because it would leave him wallowing in powerlessness and poverty.
Let’s assume the man accepts the opportunity, but spitefully abuses his power and carelessly squanders the fortune to such an extent that he not only quickly finds himself poor and powerless again, but in circumstances that are even worse than they had been before he agreed to accept the unexpected inheritance. Worse because he refuses to acknowledge that his wicked and base behavior had anything to do with his lost power and fortune. As a result, the man spends the rest of his life seething with resentment at the injustice of it all.
What if the man accepted the power and wealth, but then subsequently became obsessed by the possibility of losing it all. What would happen if he devoted the remainder of his mortal life solely to conserving, protecting, and defending his inheritance from the perceived risks and dangers of the external world?
The man might very well conserve and protect some, perhaps even the bulk of his wealth and power, but his suspicious, risk-averse, and wholly defensive approach would not only severely restrict and narrow the focus of his life, but also negate the many potentially positive, perhaps even profitable opportunities his newfound wealth and power granted him.
Another approach the man could employ if he accepted the power and wealth was to attempt to spread his power and wealth in such a way as to minimize suffering in the greater world. Daunted by the task, the man hires an army of managers, advisors, and experts to manifest his generous, altruistic ambitions. At some point in time – and that time could be quite long indeed – the man is devastated to learn that his army of “trusted” managers, advisors, and experts have done nothing to alleviate suffering in the greater world and have instead stolen the power and wealth to enrich themselves.
Finally, the man could accept the inheritance and begin to live his life from the understanding that he has essentially become a new man; that it is not only his external circumstances that have changed, but that he himself has been presented the opportunity to change internally. He understands that his new power and wealth have provided him with the opportunity to see himself and the world with new eyes.
From this new perspective, he arranges his life so that the core of his power and wealth can never be taken from him. He becomes free to dedicate his energy to something beyond the fear of “loss.” Rather than chase abstract, altruistic, Utopian fantasies of ending powerlessness and poverty for all, he searches for personal and creative ways to empower and enrich the people he knows and loves so that they too, in turn, can learn to spread power and wealth to those they love.
Now, let’s transfer the power and wealth of the simple, worldly analogy above to Christ’s gifts of redemption and salvation.
Those who refuse Christ’s offer of redemption and salvation make an active choice to remain spiritually powerless and impoverished.
Those who accept redemption and salvation but recklessly and un-repentantly squander it either do not understand nor wish to understand the gifts they have accepted.
Those who accept redemption and salvation, but then spend the remainder of their mortal lives doing nothing more than defending and conserving their salvation from the evils of the external world are either unaware of or willingly deny the freedom redemption and salvation grants them in mortal life. Fear, rather than love, motivates Christians in this category. More specifically, they fear hell more than they love Christ. Alternatively, their fear of losing salvation trumps their love of the freedom salvation offers.
Those who accept redemption and salvation but then outsource the “management” of their own personal redemption and salvation to managers, advisors, and experts at the expense of relying on their own personal intuition and discernment demonstrate an overriding trust in external authority and face the risk of losing redemption and salvation through willful neglect. Nearly all System Christians fall into this category.
Lastly, those who accept redemption and salvation from love rather than fear know they have invested in something that they can never lose. Christians in this category do not approach redemption and salvation with a siege mentality. On the contrary, they understand that redemption and salvation do not lock a person into a bastion under perpetual siege, but free a person to venture forth spiritually and creatively.
Encouraged and fortified by the salvation to which they have committed themselves, Christians in this category become aware of the immense freedom and power redemption and salvation offers, not just in everlasting life, but in mortal life as well. They begin to understand that redemption and salvation extend everlasting life into mortal life. Put another way, they do not wait for death to begin experiencing everlasting life; they begin to see that everlasting life can “begin” in mortal life to some degree.
The dissolution of the potentially negative distinction between our mortal lives and everlasting life not only lends true meaning and depth to spiritual learning in our mortal lives, but suggests the possibility that spiritual creativity is not limited to life everlasting, but can be utilized and accessed in mortal life as well.
Redemption and salvation are entirely positive, but they are only entirely positive if they are accepted through the entirely positive imperatives of faith and love and unimpaired by the potentially negative imperatives of doubt and fear.
Another way to look at it could be this: imagine you have accepted a dream job you have always wanted. The job comes with guaranteed immunity from the sack as long as you sincerely acknowledge potential mistakes, learn from them, and remain honestly committed to your work. The only way you could lose the job in this scenario is if you resigned.
Theoretically, having such an opportunity should inspire you to be bold and creative and to do all the things necessary to make the most of the job and to make the most of yourself. The guaranteed immunity should grant you the space needed to attempt groundbreaking work. Unhindered by the constant threat of losing your situation, you might feel emboldened to be creative and think outside the box.
Conversely, imagine accepting such a job, but refusing the potential freedom and resources the position offers out of fear of “screwing up”. Or, imagine being perpetually gripped by the fear of the sack despite your guaranteed immunity from such action.
As stated at the beginning of the post, redemption and salvation are unarguably entirely positive. Yet, we can only understand and appreciate the “entirety” of these entirely positive gifts if our understanding of redemption and salvation is also entirely positive.