The word salvation always reminds me of a knight in shining armor dashing onto the scene to save the princess, or Clark Kent rescuing Smallville with his super-strength powers and lightning speed. In our society that is so filled with fantasy films, romanticized stories, and unrealistic endings, we all dream of a perfect world where a superhero comes in to solve our problems. But in the end we know that it is fiction. Not real.
Recently in Sunday school with the kids at my church, we talked about Jesus being our Superhero. No, he doesn’t fly with a long blue cape, scale walls, or drive a fast car, but he is so much more. He has the qualities we fantasize about in a superhero: power, bravery, a desire to help people, a passion to do good in the world. And even more than that, he gives us love and grace. Jesus came to save the world, not only in the individual sense, transforming hearts, but also in a social justice sense, transforming society.
The salvation that Christ brought to the world comes through knowing and accepting Him and his eternal love for us (all of humanity). But it also comes through realizing his call for justice, for being a neighbor, for reaching out to the suffering. Only transforming hearts would leave us with a world of people on fire for Jesus, praising and worshiping Him, while some still struggled to make ends meet, and others still exploited workers through corporal greed. Likewise, only transforming society would mean that everyone would be treated fairly and would have enough to be content and live on, but have a spiritual emptiness inside.
This is the reason why we as Christians need to realize the importance of integral mission. Both sharing the gospel through preaching and teaching, and working to render ineffective the systemic injustices in our world, are equally vital to being an effective witness to Christ. In the Methodist tradition, we declare a commitment to both personal and social holiness. This means that our church focuses both on having a personal relationship with the trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit), and living out our faith by working to solve the social problems of the world.
For me, salvation represents our hope in something or someone greater than ourselves who will redeem us from our mistakes, imperfections, and the general messiness of life. It is searching for a savior from the pain and injustice in the world, and finding that Jesus is the answer. That when we put our faith in Him, he will work through us to change the world that is plagued by sin and inequality. It is knowing that in all this mess, there is an answer. The answer is not a superhero who comes to fight off villains through violent methods, but one who comes to create a new world through peace and love.
As Glory E. Dharmaraj says in her book Concepts of Mission, “Salvation is not only forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, but transformation of the structural evils of society which perpetually keep the people of God under dehumanizing conditions.” When we talk of conversion, then, let us not speak only of a conversion of the heart, but also of the mind and way of thinking. Let us decide when accepting Christ as our Savior, to put our faith into action to transform society. As a noble superhero would do, let us courageously fight for truth and light to be brought to our world.