Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Jesus Did Not Come to Save You

Our pastor and neighbor and her daughter doing chalk artwork
on Saturday in support of the protests. (Our house is in upper left corner.)

Jesus did not come to save you, nor to make you prosper. Jesus came to save the world and help it prosper. Of course that includes you, but not exclusively.

The morning I write this, these thoughts came to mind after hearing a discussion on NPR of an evangelical pastor about personal salvation and individual prosperity followed by reading a New York Times column by David Brooks about reparations best going to communities rather than individuals. All of this in the context of the pandemic and the racial divide.

I grew up as the kind of Baptist that emphasized personal salvation. I had no idea that there were other kinds of Baptist and other kinds of Christian that emphasized the salvation of our world, our environment and our communities. To my knowledge, at the time there was no “prosperity gospel,” though The Power of Positive Thinking of Norman Vincent Peale came close, influencing President Trump’s father and apparently himself.

In high school, I remember being moved by John Hersey’s novel A Single Pebble that offered a different perspective, that of Asian religions and cultures, featuring the greater importance of the collective, of the community, over individual concerns.

And then I became a Presbyterian my first year of college and learned for the first time that salvation was not my personal escape clause from hell but sought the redemption of a fallen world. “God's got the whole world in God’s hands,” we had sung as evangelical fundamentalist children, though with male pronouns. “Jesus is coming” was not seen as a joyous occasion of transformation but as a threat to nonbelievers and Christian “backsliders.” The cosmic Christ would end the world.

Only through a Spiritual Formation course at Columbia Seminary a few years ago did I fully “get” that the whole Bible is about God coming to be with us, first “tabernacling” with the Hebrews, becoming Emmanuel (“God-with-us”) for Christians, and, in Revelation, not destroying the world but making his/her/their home with us, renewing and refreshing heaven and earth.

And the story of the Incarnation is that Jesus did not “come” from anywhere else, but was, in the psalmist’s words, “knit together in a mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made” as we all are. The gospel he proclaimed was of a commonwealth already in our midst, even within us, if we only shared a divine vision, empathy, and desire for us to heal one another and our world.

The story of the Bible is that God has been with us all along. And in all of us. “Red and yellow, black and white—all are precious in his sight,” we sang in Sunday school. And, I have come to believe, in all of us regardless of religious perspective.

Mere personal survival was Jesus’ first temptation (“turn these stones into bread”) and is ours as well. Through his ministry and his teachings Jesus transforms personal survival to personal sacrifice, encouraging all to offer our lives to others for the sake of and in the realization of the commonwealth of God. That’s how the bread and wine of mere survival become the body and blood of full communion with the world. We are called to be, in the apostle Paul’s words, “living sacrifices.”

That’s how God loves us, how God saves us, how God lives in us—unless we mess it up.

Recent posts that offer hope during our pandemic:

Two of many posts that address our racial divisions:
“I Can’t Breathe!” (last week’s post)

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Copyright © 2020 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. 


  1. Good morning Chris,
    Once again, you get me thinking. Several years ago, a nun that I knew who was facilitating a class I was taking, said; "My God did not send His son to die on a cross".....WHAT?????? I looked at my friend and we were both thinking, "this is heresy"! Then she went on to say, "God sent His son to save us, even if it meant dying on a cross". Hmmmmmmm, that sure gave me food for thought. Since then I have come to understand things so much differently and am convinced that this salvation business is about relationship...ours with God and with our neighbor. We don't further God's reign by beating someone over the head, but by loving them into the reign. I believe that God's ultimate will for us is that we return to God and if I do indeed "love" God, as I say I do then it is incumbent on me to help us all, please God, by encouraging, forgiving, being merciful, walking beside those I meet as we all journey toward our final destination.

    Thank you for your wisdom, Chris and blessings on you week,

    1. Mary, as always, you provide additional food for thought, and I agree with you. Thanks for writing! warmly, Chris

  2. really got me thinking. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Kelsey! As always, good to hear from you!

  3. "... offering our lives to others for the sake of and in the realization of the commonwealth of God." I arrived in Christianity many years ago now, but primarily as an interfaith Unitarian Universalist, not feeling attracted by most asserted doctrines. Having left atheism in High School as a loose UU Taoist "educationalist," I got my degree in Bio Anthro, taught in Africa for a year, then tumbled and was attracted to a job in Soc Svc in NYC with substance abusing moms of infants. I haven´t yet achieved financial independence, but have sounded the depths and circled the space of art and activism in an America driven by Big Biz and Wall St., with mostly middle-of-the-road Christianity having lain down and rolled over as in Dem Hillary´s case. My activism and education have received my spiritual life as my masters degree led me to their Christian roots, and the problem of the secular split. Alienation is a term Marx used socioeconomically, and exploitation. It is thus that I can identify with the values you begin to invoke, and connect the dots to US Big Biz profiteering, with wage slavery and imperial CEO mythos underlying the shadows and smoke of racism´s divides. My support of Greenpeace, Oxfam and so on only appeared fulfilled by my spiritual pursuits, and my Christian engagement. My next step to a food co-op fulfilled that further. Learning about Fair Trade, Credit Unions, Co-operative Social Economics and Historical Sociology all fulfills the marginalized views that correspond much with the not infrequently demonized Social Europe. The Social Gospel of W Gladden, as in GJ Dorrien´s Soul in Society, cited in W Greider´s The Soul of Capitalism, lays out a rich Christian view. Talking about "sacrifice" without the sufficient love of knowledge is part of the complex the Buddha highlighted, "ignorance, greed, and hatred." We are thus called to reclaim and seek out what activists began to promote abroad, Soldarity Economics, activist co-operativism. The term "Co-operative Commonwealth" was used by the Knights of Labor in the US. Fighting racism but ignoring socioeconomics is doomed by the same forces that propel anti-environmentalism. Rich, profiteering monopolists. Love can conquer all. With the "mind" part of "mind-body-spirit," and a pluralistic, modernized Jesus.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Please see my reply to your second comment below.

  4. Thanks for a stimulating reflection.

    "..Jesus transforms personal survival to personal sacrifice, encouraging all to offer our lives to others for the sake of and in the realization of the commonwealth of God." I became an identifying Christian Unitarian Universalist many years ago, but never abandoned pluralism and modernization. Jesus just fell into place for me, true to his actual legacy in Universities and activism. That connection is not widely publicized, and has suffered from a secular split.

    Among various levels that modern personal development calls us to investigate are our assumptions about socioeconomics. I went to Africa to teach, and worked in NYC Soc Svc with substance abusers, learning about Therapeutic Psychology, emotional awareness, eco-social justice activism, and finally, democratic business models like food co-ops and credit unions. W Greider´s The Soul of Capitalism led me to G Dorrien´s Soul in Society and the Social Gospel of W Gladden and so on. Ultimately, Buddhism has been supported by Psychology´s insights into conditioned value attachments. Such a combination richly illuminates a sincere exploration of Jesus´ injunctions to" Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven." From the alternative values that stretch from Berkeley, Cal to Ashville, NC to Vermont, Social Europe, and in Fair Trade co-op social economics around the world, I would suggest the term Jesus used, "fulfillment," in relation to the OT prophets. Fighting racism has basic socioeconomic dimensions, and America is full of propaganda and taboos that are mere illusions in need of restorative vision and demonstration. Jesus´ legacy is as rich as the basic theology of his loving teachings. Enough to transform any injustices driving racism in our society and the world.

    Thanks again for a stimulating reflection.

    1. I'm not sure I could follow everything in your comments, but you have obviously thought-through and lived-through vital human concerns. Thank you for taking the time to share your pilgrimage of thought and heart! Readers will appreciate your insights.

    2. Thanks for the warm welcome, and glad to share, and even dialogue. The scope of my concerns has a lot in common with Quaker-Friendism that spawned the pioneering Anti-Slavery Social Movement vividly portrayed in A Hochschild´s Bury the Chains, and Process Theology as in JB Cobb and his articulating Ecological Civilization, the United Church of Christ´s Sci-Tech Pastoral Letter for Open Doctrine, and as I´ve recently learned, Postmodern Theology-Radical Orthodoxy that validates modern knowledge domains. Thanks again, all the best, and God the Divine Love bless in Jesus´ name.