The entire ministry of Jesus Christ on earth speaks of salvation. For example, the Bible teaches that He is the Truth, the Way and the Life (John 14:6), He comes with His reward and with His work (Is 40:10), and He comes to save the World (John 3:16). Many readers of the Bible can see that the Lord wants us to be “saved,” and to enjoy the salvation He offers. The question, though, is how does the Lord “save” us? Why is everyone not automatically “saved”?
One of the wonderful things about the teachings of the New Church is that we now know being saved is not about following arbitrary rules or joining an exclusive club. Being “saved” means you come to want what the Lord wants. The Lord made us and we are capable of responding to the love that He is continually offering.
This does not happen all at once. Like building a home or a friendship, coming to love what the Lord loves is a process that takes time and effort. Many of us experience moments of insight and perhaps even profound happiness in our lives, but these moments are part of something greater and yet more subtle. Salvation is about the Lord making us into angels, slowly and quietly. The Lord knows us really well. He looks at us in our lives the way a loving parent watches his children. The love a mother feels for a newborn infant is one of the most tender and most powerful feelings, and every mother hopes her baby has a long, exciting and rewarding path through life—her baby has lots to see and do! The same is true when the Lord gazes upon us.
This process does require something of us. It does not happen by default; it is our choice to walk this path. Both in His Word and in the world around us, the Lord is continually showing us how to join Him in His heavenly kingdom. The Lord has a recipe of salvation: His truth, His love, and His work. We need to know what He wants, we need to decide to do it, and then we have to do it. This recipe is simple to follow, and each day is filled with opportunities to apply it in life. We can cooperate with the Lord in the thousand small moments of our day, whether we are answering the day’s e-mail, talking a friend through a tough time, or taking out the garbage.
To show us what He wants, the Lord gives us His Word. He wants us to love our neighbors and to love Him. He wants us not to steal, lie, and murder. He wants us to know that there is a way to be kind to every person we meet. He wants us to know that we don’t have to be evil or selfish. The Lord’s truth is the first ingredient, and it tells us how our happiness—and salvation—is achieved. The Lord’s love is the second ingredient. There is no more abundant resource in the entire universe. We are all alive because of His love, and we have to accept His love if we are going to be saved. Once we have an idea of what the Lord wants—no matter how small or basic—we have to align what we want with what He wants. This is how we accept the Lord’s love. While it may seem a daunting task to change what we want, the Lord makes this easy for us too. He does not demand that we magically change what we want—He only asks that we choose to do what He wants. The teachings of the New Church bring us the good news that we aren’t always responsible for our thoughts and feelings, but the Lord provides us with the power to choose what thoughts and feelings we nurture in our lives. We can choose to do what the Lord wants even when a part of us resists it; this is accepting the Lord’s love into our lives. A wonderful promise from the Lord is that if we decide to do His will, we will slowly come to enjoy doing His will.
The third ingredient to salvation is to put the first two (His truth and His love) together in action. If we think we know what the Lord wants, and decide to do it, all that is left is doing it. When we build a home, we must actually build something. When we build a friendship, we have to do more than think nice thoughts about our friend. We work at it. People are not saved by passing a multiple-choice test on what the Lord wants, and they are not saved by passionate pleas and praise. People are saved by the quiet, subtle, life-changing work of coming to love what the Lord loves. None of this can happen without the Lord’s cooperation. He is always ready to help in an instant—all He asks is that we try, and He will rush to our side.
But what about when we stumble? Can we make so many mistakes that we are hopeless? One of the comforting truths of the Word is that setbacks and failures are never the end of the story. We all stumble, we all make mistakes, and we are all human. Our loving Lord knows this too. When we are building a house, sometimes we make a mistake; we might even have to tear down a wall or two to fix the mistake. When we are building a friendship, we can say or do something that damages that friendship, but we can apologize and strive to make it right. With salvation, though, we are doing it with the Lord, and He never gives up and never withholds forgiveness.
The Lord does ask us to keep trying. Because His gift of salvation is a process, we can never truly say that we are done in this life. There is always more to learn, and we can always develop a deeper appreciation of His truth. We can always be kinder than we used to be and live the Lord’s love more than the day before. The more we learn and do, the more we love—which will let us learn and do even more.
We really shouldn’t worry about whether we are ‘saved’. There is no real ‘finish line’ to cross. Angels in heaven strive and work to be better people, just as we do on earth. They love their work, they strive to be better, and they live more and more in the Lord’s love to eternity. We will do the same thing after we die, so long as we have tried to live well according to the Lord’s Word. The Lord cares for two things more than our salvation: our freedom and our happiness.
The reason He wants us to be saved is because He knows that we will be happiest if we join Him in His heavenly kingdom. But He guards our freedom most carefully of all; without our freedom, without an ability to choose, we cannot come to love Him or be happy or be saved. From just His love He would save every person in the world, no matter what, but from His wisdom He knows this would not leave us in freedom. Instead, He gives us every tool in His Word, every moment in our lives, and every chance at forgiveness—all in the loving hope that we will choose happiness in the salvation He offers.