Photo by thebittenword
Saved. It’s one of those words that has such powerful, deeply resonant implications, as well as judgmental, divisive, fear-inducing potential, depending on when, how, and where it’s used.
Many of our uses of the word “save” are banal—we take a different route to save time, we buy a smaller car to save gas, we save money to buy something we want, and we save leftovers so we can eat them later. In some uses the word takes on more weight. We help save the environment by recycling. We save a friendship by having an important conversation. In old movies, the phrase “You saved my life,” is usually followed by a long kiss and eventually a wedding.
But the particular phrase “I am saved” has unquestionable Christian meaning. Even saying “I was saved” implies a work of God, right? (Although it could apply to the work of a paramedic or surgeon.) Which brings me to the heart of the matter: We can’t really understand what we mean by “saved” unless we’re willing to ask “Saved from what?”
The importance of saying what we mean
This is where our discussion about the word “saved” last night at our Bible & Beer group got interesting for me. Because often when Christians use the word “saved” they mean saved—in a single moment of conversion—from hell. It’s a black and white distinction: I was lost, now I’m found; I was in peril, now I’m saved. Done.
(An aside: I don’t pretend to actually know what others mean when they use Christian jargon, but I do know something about how most people hear and understand it. I think that’s a pretty good argument for all of us taking a bit more time to explain whatever it is that we each mean when we use these words.)
That common Christian understanding doesn’t sit well with me, for a number of reasons (some I won’t get into now, like my understanding of hell). For one, I don’t appreciate the use of black and white labels—I’m in, you’re out. But more importantly, on a personal level, I believe being saved is a process, one that involves being saved from countless little and big things throughout your life. There are alternate translations of the Greek word sodzo which fit that understanding, including “made whole” and “healed.” We all know those both involve a long and sometimes painful process.
“Rescued” is another translation, so I’m going to substitute that here for saved. (Btw, I am not a Greek scholar! My pastor shared these translations with me.) What am I rescued from on a daily basis? I am rescued from my poor judgment and bad decisions, whether I make a better decision at the last moment or I go through with the bad decision and am able to navigate my way out. I am rescued from the ways the world presses in on me, and beats me up. I am rescued from my own self doubt and lack of trust. I am rescued like the Psalmist was, again and again, and also like the Psalmist I recognize that the “saving” doesn’t always happen when and how I wish it would. That fits in with the idea of saving being a process, too.
These are all rescue stories I am willing to share. What I’m not willing to do is just say “I’m saved,” without further explanation.
How do you feel about the word “saved?” What have you been saved or rescued from?