At a conference in Kenya recently I noticed that each speaker or participant introduced themselves by stating their name, where they come from and then that they were saved or born again.
Throughout the Bible we see God being described as Saviour and Redeemer, and in the New Testament Jesus is frequently given this title. God always seems to be taking the initiative to come and save us. “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the World” – 1 John 4:14.
As we celebrated Christmas we recognised Jesus as coming into the world as the Saviour. Indeed, his very name means God the Saviour (as it relates to the Hebrew root word for “rescuer, deliverer, healer”). The whole Bible is the story of God being Lord and Saviour. With so much evidence in the Bible about salvation and the Saviour, we must be sure that we understand what we mean when we talk about salvation or ‘being saved’.
When working for an aid project in Mozambique after the floods of 2000, rebuilding destroyed homes, our team were returning to Maputo after celebrating the opening of these houses. One of our team cars was involved in an accident when a man stepped into the road and was hit by their car. Tragically, he later died in hospital. The driver of the car was in a state of shock and her faith was shattered. She said to me “I thought God was my saviour. If he can’t save me from such an accident, and if he can’t heal the man injured, then I am unsafe, uncertain and confused.”
Many people were physically healed by Jesus and later, his disciples. We have many stories and testimonies of people being healed today. Similarly, we have stories of liberation, of communities lifted out of poverty, of environmental recovery and bumper harvests, of justice being gained, of peace and reconciliation attained. We rejoice, we celebrate and we give thanks, and naturally long for much more. The Bible describes these amazing occurrences as “signs of the kingdom.” Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he also later would face death again. The 5,000 who were fed by Jesus, had to find food the next day. The signs of the Kingdom point to the King and all that he has accomplished on the Cross and will finally accomplish forever when he returns. Then there will no longer be illness, hunger, homelessness, injustice or environmental degradation.
So salvation now does not mean we will never face hardship, financial insecurity, Illness, injustice and or death. Salvation is the Good News that Jesus has rescued us from slavery to darkness, rebellion and death. He has set us free. A freedom in which we now are joint heirs in Christ of all he has created. As we live out this truth we become signs of the Kingdom of God too. We manifest the “not yet in the now”. Signs of liberation, transformation, healing, and restoration should be present in and through all we do and say, but they are not the salvation, only Jesus is the Saviour.
Let’s look deeper at the example of the tragedy in Mozambique. Just after the accident a large angry crowd gathered around our team’s car and our team were afraid. A pickup truck suddenly stopped. Two people from Samaritan’s Purse got out and helped. They took the injured man to hospital (no ambulances were available). We arrived ten minutes later, walked into the crowd and were able to calm them down, reassuring them that we were going to act justly. We offered them to choose a few of the community to come with us as we went to the police and hospital. They did. We amazed them as we showed another way to respond in love and compassion.
We covered the costs of hospital for the man and then offered his bereaved family help to cover the funeral costs. We met the family and loved the best we could. When the court heard all we had done they were amazed and said no one had ever responded in such away and no fines were given as they felt we had extended support to the family more than would be required by law. The driver of the car was still fragile in faith and in shock, and so she went back to her home church for a number of months to be ministered to through this tough season. We worked with her pastor and when she was ready, she returned.
This too shows signs of the Kingdom. When the people of God respond in compassion, when they pursue justice and care for creation, we will see these signs and indeed, see transformation, but salvation is found only in Christ. This is why integral mission is so vitally important. We cannot just do good works, as much as they are amazing signs of the Kingdom, we must also share the hope we have in our Saviour, so that all who see the signs, who experience the love we share, will turn to Christ and be saved.
Director Micah Global