On the Corner

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Levels of salvation?

I’m not much for levels of spirituality. It bothers me when some people seem to believe their walk is holier–more devout than the one I’m struggling with–that maybe they are some kind of a “super” Christian, unplagued by the very human difficulties I seem to experience in my walk. The people whom I have found most like Christ seem to seek roles of service, seem to know God’s word more fully, seem to love the unloved more consistently–seem always to project humility–and never seem to need to broadcast the dimensions of their devotion to him apart from a simple, straightforward witness to his grace.

Now, I admit…I am far from perfect–and, I regret to say, sometimes I’m even a little proud of it. Nevertheless, my belief system concerning the presence of Christ in my life continues to grow. The up hill part of my walk with him pertains to my desire to be more like him–not to question his deity. My faith has matured over the years sufficiently to resolve that challenge. That increased spiritual maturity adds much to my life, but it doesn’t mean I see myself getting “promoted” to some higher Christian status. Being saved isn’t graded. Either we choose it or we don’t. Either we’re in–or we’re out.

Once in awhile I get a little upset when I hear the term “born again Christian” expressed as a badge of some kind superiority. Aren’t all who claim Christ as savior new people in him–born from above in a new way? Maybe it’s me, but I perceive that collection of words often to be expressed with a subtle tone of bragging with an undercurrent of anticipatory judgmentalism.

Nevertheless, Christ’s “born again” metaphor in that powerful third chapter of John does have some important messages for us.

When we initially claim Christ, first, we need to believe that we are different than we were–different in our interaction with others, in how we view ourselves–in our priorities–our thoughts and behaviors, and in the recognition that we need to grow. We have experienced growth in our personal self–now we need to seek that growth in a spiritual dimension. I think that growth is expedited if it doesn’t happen alone.

Just as an infant needs an external source of human nurturance to grow emotionally toward a greater sense of trust, so does the new Christian need that same quality of human nurturance to grow spiritually. Sometimes, it’s clear to me that some new Christians fail to develop because those of us around that person fail to provide the kind of human nurturance necessary. In the process, we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience our own growth–always a product of such an experience.

All of us grow at our own pace. So too, do new Christians. If they are moving slowly, with many fits and starts, they don’t need great gobs of shame or guilt heaped on them. If we want to help them continue the process, they need validation and support. Gradually, from committed Christians around them, they begin to learn more of the tools essential for a Christian walk. They begin to understand that the term “worship” comes from the same root as the word “work.” They begin to see that being a Christian by loving others is much more important than talking about Christianity.

This growth does not elevate us to a higher plane–it does not give us richer crowns–nor does it even mean we are better people. It simply means we have grown.

Gradually, over time, new Christians begins to identify more fully with Christ. Their faith grows because they know more about him and perceive themselves as having an intimate relationship with him. They sense that because we have disclosed our own feelings to them. And, because we have shared with them, they begin to see the importance of sharing that faith with those around them–of telling simple life stories to those nearby about the change that has taken place in them. In turn, their witness helps generate new Christians. They become as complete as is possible for one living in the human condition.

It all started because one person nurtured another as a mother nurtures her newborn babe.

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