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Jan13TueHow our seventh doctrine expresses the richness of salvation. January 13, 2015 by Major Ray Harris
Great. Full. Immense. Boundless. This is the language of salvation at the heart of The Salvation Army's identity. We are a community of salvation. And our doctrines shape our understanding of what that means. Beginning with the seventh doctrine, these core convictions point to different aspects of salvation. This particular affirmation of faith states: We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are necessary to salvation. Let's explore salvation's meaning and significance for our times.
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Luke's Gospel is a good place to begin. In the Christmas story, shepherds keep watch over their flock by night, when an angel blindsides them with the proclamation, “to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Luke 2:11 NRSV).
Luke's Gospel then unfolds what it means for Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. For instance, an unnamed woman crashes a men's banquet and anoints the feet of Jesus. His host is shocked by this gesture, but Jesus turns to the woman with his forgiveness and benediction, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50 NRSV; italics mine).
Another anonymous woman reaches through a crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' garment. Her hemorrhaging body made her unclean and unwelcome in the community. But Jesus called her “daughter” and welcomed her back into the community: “Your faith has healed (saved) you, go in peace” (Luke 8:48).
As he enters the town of Jericho for the final time, Jesus invites himself into the home of the despised Zacchaeus, chief tax collector. At the end of the meal Zacchaeus indicates his intention to restore finances to anyone he has defrauded. Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9 NRSV).
Luke summarizes this section of his Gospel: “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 NRSV). The Gospel of Luke is shaped by his understanding of salvation. It expresses healing of the body, mind, relationships, financial integrity and more. In his life, death and Resurrection, Jesus announced and embodied salvation to all the people.
For this reason, the Army's seventh doctrine articulates the need for repentance and faith as necessary responses to God's saving acts in Christ. Repentance, because humanity has chosen to go its own way and needs to turn around in order to face God's outstretched arms. Faith, because trust is needed to learn the love of a God who will not coerce. This core conviction also points to the essential need of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The Christian gospel is about life—renewing, regenerating life. And the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—offers this life to all who believe.
We live in a world that needs healing in the deepest sense of the word. This past year we have been faced with wounds in the Ukraine and West Africa. Salvationists have engaged in ministry in both places, bringing hygiene supplies to the people of Donetsk, and medical supplies to Ebola victims in Liberia. These are gestures of healing, of salvation.
Last October, Canada was wounded when two soldiers were horrifically killed, one while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Just as these deaths occurred, the National Arts Centre Orchestra embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom. The tour's purpose was to let music's “healing power” commemorate the beginning of the First World War in 1914. Little did the orchestra know that the tragic shooting would add to the tour's significance. But from the opening performance in Edinburgh to the final concert in Bristol, music helped to heal—perhaps even the musicians themselves.
Our understanding of salvation will determine the scope of The Salvation Army's mission. Embrace an immense salvation and we will forge an immense mission in our world. A congregation's role with those suffering dementia reflects our understanding of salvation. A division's role in holding camps for young people expresses what we mean by salvation. A territory's response to addiction helps the nation to understand our view of God's saving grace. The global Salvation Army's response to human trafficking reflects our grasp of a boundless salvation. Let us embody God's great salvation in our times.
Major Ray Harris is a retired Salvation Army officer who lives in Winnipeg. He grew up in Hamilton, Ont., where he learned to play football and march in Salvation Army bands.
Convictions Matter, Major Ray Harris' new book, is available at store.salvationarmy.ca, 416-422-6100, email@example.com. For the e-book, visit amazon.ca.
Photo: © iStock.com/Cimmerian