Universal Salvation

26 Aug

The concept of universal salvation (everybody getting into heaven) is attributed to “liberal theologians” in the era.  However, the first person to give an understanding of universal acceptance was Jesus of Nazareth. Note: he got in trouble for this because the religious authorities wanted believe they had the power to say who was in and who was out.  Then, Paul reinforced these ideas, and actions of God in his letter to the Romans.  Paul also got in trouble with this because he refused to affirm that the ‘old laws’ of Judaism needed to be carried over to the ‘new faith’ of Christianity-he was condemned by all sides.  Then, finally when Martian Luther started translating the Scripture so that anyone could read them (again in got in trouble for translating) he claimed that people were “saved by faith only”.  Again, he was in huge trouble because the Roman Catholic church was making a lot of money from ‘selling salvation’.

When I look at our faith traditions from this lens and read again Eugene Peterson’s translation, God’s promise arrives as pure gift, I think that the idea of universal salvation is not a new one.  So the good news it that Paul makes sure everyone knows that they are included in the promise of God.

16 This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

17-18 We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

19-25 Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

The even better news it that God is the one who fulfills the promise, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.  

So often we are trying travel our Christian life on our own steam.  But here, Paul reminds us that it is God who is the actor in our faith story and we are just the partners who follow where the Divine Presence leads.  We are invited into relationship with the Eternal Creating Spirit, invited to find healing, wholeness, holiness, and purpose for our earth bound, time bound, limited vision existence.  It seems like a no-brainer, but sure enough, we will probably get in trouble when we say everyone is included no matter what – it is a part of our faith history.  Peace


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