We see in the life of Jesus what true freedom means. Perfectly secure in his identity, he does not fear death and is thus beyond the power of all outside forces.
Now, when I say that the purpose of Christian faith is to live life in the same way, I am note merely proposing a kind of imitatio Christi, though it is certainly about this. Faith is not only about imitating Christ, it is also about becoming one with him. I will discuss this further when I address the sacraments.
I think this can be a way to understand what salvation is. It is becoming free from sin, and thus being able to live a life in the kind of freedom that the life of Jesus shows. How is this a victory over death? Paul says in 1 Cor 15: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." The death we are saved from is not the physical death, death in the sense of an end to biological activity in the body, but is death as something we need to fear. When we are freed from sin, the "sting" of death is removed, and what is less is only death as a part of life, and we no longer have to fear it. That Jesus dies without fear, he shows us that death is not something we need to fear, and that by accepting one's being-mortal, one in fact can overcome death already in life. This is how resurrection is something that can be experienced in this life already.
But does not victory over death concern the afterlife? Yes, but as I argued in an earlier post, life after death is not something we can say that much about. But the way we live here is an expression of our hope for the future world. When we live "resurrected" here, without fear of death, and thus free from the forces that try to control us, we are really expressing what our hope is. Here we are not able to realize this freedom completely, but it can be real enough for us to experience what we believe will be perfect in the next world.
This is all very abstract, I know. But maybe it will be clearer what I mean if I discuss these "forces" I talk of a bit more. I have on purpose been very general with this so far.
The point is that the forces that want to control us by triggering our deep fears are the same forces that are destroying our culture and world. These forces are nothing else than the complex system of economical and political institutions that want us to be consumers instead of persons. It is the system that tells us that it is more important to buy products than to care about what the production of these products does to the environment or to the well-being of the people that produce them.
Salvation in Christ is to be able to escape from these forces. It is be able to build one's identity, not on material stuff, but on something much more solid. This is not to say that this is all salvation is, but this is how salvation is experienced in this life. And it points us towards the complete salvation in the next life, of which we are not able to say much.
By the way, such a life, "outside the system", is one that will not be much harmed by the decline of our culture, a least not the economical aspects of it. An identity that is to a large degree built on consuming will risk complete destruction when the possibilities of consumption are dramatically reduced. This is something I want to discuss more in another post.
Exactly how this salvation is experienced is something that is already part of the Problem of Meaning, because it is the Spirit that gives us life.
Thursday, June 01, 2006