Now that’s a pretty big question in my opinion.

But as I opened my email last week- there it was.  Staring me in the face.

A new friend to our church community had been checking out our website and couldn’t find the answer there.  So she asked.

And while I’m glad she posed the question, I found myself wondering how to answer it.  Should I give her a few bullet points?  Some scripture references?  After a couple of minutes of thought, I started typing.  Here’s what came out:

As a church we believe that people are broken and sinful.  Each of us- in one way or another- has bought the lie that was told in the garden:  We can be God. Maybe not of the universe mind you, but at least of our own lives.  So, we’ve taken charge and charted our own courses- ignoring God and His wisdom.

Our selfishness and rebellion have screwed up our relationship with our Creator, ourselves and the rest of Creation.  At times we might miss this- because life is good and things are going on nicely.  But watch for any amount of time and it becomes apparent that we (and the rest of the world) really aren’t OK.  When suffering, conflict, cruelty, emptiness and decay raise their heads we say (either out loud or to ourselves): “I don’t think things are supposed to be this way.”  And we’re right.

We were fashioned in God’s image.  We were created to live in harmony with God and the rest of Creation.  We were made for paradise.  We were created to live with joy.  To love.  To thrive.  Many of us seem to sense this and the disparity between God’s intent and the results of our choices to rebel can be overwhelming.  Maybe even disabling.  Which might explain why many of us don’t like to think about it for very long.  Those of us who do acknowledge the brokenness sometimes try to fix it.  We work the steps, we forgive, we peace-make, we self-actualize, we become activists, etc.  All good stuff, but still lacking.  While it feels good to try and the occasional patch sometimes sticks, it becomes clear that sweeping repairs are needed that exceed our skill set.

Fortunately, we aren’t the only ones who long for things to be made right again.  God loves His Creation.  Although He allowed us to choose a path that warped all that He made- He’s never given up on us.  Knowing that we can’t make things right on our own, God does the heavy lifting.

Throughout the course of man’s story, the Creator works to help people understand.  He give us laws and a system of sacrifices.  He provides the Scriptures.  He provides miraculous signs.  He sends prophets.  He speaks through nature.  He works in hearts and minds.  He is patient.  Then, when the time is right, He steps into Creation Himself.

God becomes one of us.  He’s named Jesus.  He is humble and gentle.  Jesus shows God to us in a way that we haven’t seen before.  He teaches.  He heals.  He loves.  He speaks of a Kingdom that sounds like the very thing we’ve been longing for our entire lives.  And then He does something that no one understands.  Instead of harnessing His power, charisma and growing band of followers to take the world by storm- Jesus allows Himself to be captured, tortured and murdered.  Later, this will make sense, but in the moment it seems like all hope is gone.

Three days later, Jesus is back- risen from the dead.  He’s faced our most feared enemy- death- head on and won.  He fills us in on the implications.  A new day has dawned.  Jesus has provided the fix that eluded us.  The Kingdom of God has come by His death and resurrection.  The rules have changed.  The Creator has sacrificed Himself for the Creation.  He has paid our debt.  The slate is clean.  Through Jesus we can have a fresh start.  We can be innocent again- like newborn babes.

But this isn’t just about cleansing our consciences or punching a ticket to a better eternal destination.  God is reconciling us to Himself.  Jesus is offering us another shot at a relationship with God that isn’t hindered by our sin.  We can learn to live like the people God made us to be.  God Himself will live with us- even inside us somehow- and will continue to work to shape us back into His image.  Here.  Now.

And God doesn’t play favorites.  This good news is offered to all people.  As God allowed us all to choose rebellion and walk away from Him- He allows us all to choose relationship, reconciliation and restoration.  Just like the prodigal, we find the Father’s arms wide open when we come home.

Even though the gift is free and can’t be earned, it does come with a price: desire, humility, and complete surrender. In the end, this new relationship with God costs us everything- just like it did Jesus.  This will become a common theme.  Living life with God means following Jesus.  Walking in His steps.  Submitting to His leadership.  Taking on His character.  Depending on Him for life itself.

Then Jesus tells us that we can’t do this by ourselves.  That we won’t make it alone.  That we need to love each other.  Jesus groups us together.  He gives each of us gifts that benefit others.  Tells us to support each other.  And to keep spreading His message of love, hope and restored relationships- with God and all of Creation.  Even though a day is coming when God will put the finishing touches on all of this work- Jesus tells us that He’ll use us to do some of it in the here and now.

So we live to love- God, each other and the world Jesus cared so much for.  We strive our best to follow Jesus and trust God’s mercy and grace to make up the difference.  We work and pray for the Kingdom of Jesus to be establish today.  And we look for the day when God will wrap things up here and bring us to live with Him face to face.

I ended by apologizing for rambling.

I wondered why I felt so compelled to write so much.

Then it hit me.  I was trying to communicate that salvation is all encompassing.  To me, it isn’t a business transaction where we trade guilt for grace.  Or a status we achieve where we’re in instead of out.

Salvation is about following Jesus.  About learning to depend on Him.  About allowing Him to sustain us.  Now.  And forever.

I’m not saying that my description is the only way to see it or that I understand completely how all of this works.  But then, I don’t think God needs me to.

And I’m grateful for that.