I haven’t accepted Jesus as my personal savior.
At least I feel uneasy saying it that way; it makes me uncomfortable on several levels. But I should preface my comments by acknowledging that the use of the phrase, “accepting a personal savior,” does not make true all of the comments which follow. It does, though, lend itself to the following interpretations, however ingrained and subconscious they may be:
- I fear we grab hold of Jesus as savior and forget the Lord bit. I’m not sure he can be one without the other, but we often live our lives as if it’s not only a possibility, but a certainty. Our language leans this way as well. One problem is that we misuse the word salvation — or, rather, we fail to apply it’s fuller meaning. I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. Each is a perfectly Biblical statement, which I am about to greatly oversimplify. Justification is when my position in Christ is made right, but my practice is not. Transformation is when my practice is becoming more in line with my position in Christ. And glorification is when the kingdom is present in its fullness, and all is as it should be — in both my practice and my position. Salvation is used for all three of these concepts in the New Testament, yet we tend to focus only on justification. “I was saved.” I suppose I should concede, at least, that “I have accepted” implies a past action that is continuing to affect the present. Also, in my oversimplified definitions of ‘salvation,’ I only spoke of their import to the individual. Which brings me to my next point…
- I’m uncomfortable with the individualistic nature of the claim. As if it’s just “me and Jesus” in this together, only the two of us, peas and carrots. I can’t read the Bible and come away with a view of the kingdom that allows me to gravitate toward such a personal savior. We even go so far as to question whether or not people are sincere in their commitments to Christ if they come forward at the same time as others — and a group decision is absolutely out of the question. I don’t know if we realize it, but we’re reading our American worldview into the text (or we’re forming our ideas not based on the text at all). There are several examples in the New Testament of entire households coming to Christ… together… at the same time. The Old Testament tells of entire cities and nations turning to God. And there are numerous cultures in our world today in which people still make decisions as families and/or communities. And we want to interview each individual to make sure they’ve made this decision dependent of any other?!
- I don’t like the declaration of ownership implied in Jesus being “mine.” I know this one’s a lot easier to debate, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it; I’ll leave it at the fact that I’m more comfortable with my belonging to Jesus than I am him belonging to me.
- My reluctance to proclaim that I’ve “accepted” Jesus is similar to my reluctance to imply ownership — mostly semantics. I’m acknowledging that. But all of the responsibility is on me when I accept something or someone. I’ve come to believe over the past few years that the Holy Spirit has more to do with my salvation than I was previously willing to admit. That being said, I’m not nearly as hesitant to say, “I’ve accepted Christ,” as I am to claim, “…and then I made up my mind I’d better straighten out my life and get it right. So I repented and got baptized.” Maybe only a subtle difference, but it strikes me as significant.
- I would argue that our continual focus on the individual and his/her part in accepting Christ nurtures in us a sort of selfishness. It actually pushes us just a bit toward viewing ourselves as the center of our universe, which is how we got into all this trouble to start with. (I think) I believe all sin emanates from some form of selfishness (although not necessarily an individualistic form of it — one can be selfish while thinking of his family or social group, etc). And I feel as if we’re allowing selfishness to creep back into the one place it shouldn’t exist — the kingdom of God. While it’s true that Jesus loves me, can we take some of the focus off of me? I suppose it’s no surprise that I prefer “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” to “Jesus loves me.” Let’s put the focus back on God. While I know this will never happen (and probably shouldn’t), I’m just waiting for my daughter to come home one day with a coloring sheet that says, “God loves himself more than me.” We start at quite a young age cultivating in our children that they are the most important thing to us… and to God. I’d like for us to look at a bigger picture.
What are your thoughts on the “accepting a personal savior” phrase? What wording might be better? What do you generally say when you’re wanting to convey to others the idea that you’ve put on Christ, or that you’re a citizen of the kingdom, etc? Do we even think about how what we say might come across to others, or what it might reveal about some of our deepest assumptions?