We are The Salvation Army, so it makes sense that ‘salvation’ is one of our core values. However that word, ‘salvation’, is often misunderstood and unfortunately narrowly defined as only related to one’s ‘soul’. The word ‘salvation’ is far more holistic, as the narrator shares in the above video from our ethics center.
The Greek word for ‘salvation’ is sōtēria, which is why the formal theological study of salvation is known as ‘soteriology’. Men and women commit their entire lives to the study of salvation, so I don’t expect to be able to delve into the depth of its meaning in just a few paragraphs.
I simply want to say this; sōtēria is a word defined by much more than one’s spirituality. It isn’t just about the kind of reward we might receive after we die, though we highly value that hope. Salvation is also about being liberated, freed and released from slavery today. It’s about being saved from bondage in the here and now, and set free from captivity to a life of joy and peace right now; not just when we die.
When Jesus talked about being ‘saved’, He was speaking to people who were in bondage to Caesar’s whims. Their land was being stripped away from them. They were hungry, abused, sick, oppressed and feeling helpless. Tax collectors were robbing any money they may have had. The majority of people were living in poverty; barely scraping by.
So when Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world offered them salvation, they weren’t primarily thinking about their souls; they were hoping to be liberated from their bondage to Caesar. They followed Jesus and hung on His every word. Especially the words from His first ever public speech;
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed” (Luke 4:18)
The people we meet every day in our shelters are in bondage. They are slaves to things like institutionalization, addiction, sickness, poverty and homelessness. We, the ones who work in our shelters are also in bondage; to money, individualism, greed, food, and any number of other potential trappings. We all need to be ‘saved’.
The Salvation Army believes that Jesus can save us all; from ourselves, our addictions and from all other forms of bondage and darkness. We believe that this kind of holistic salvation that Jesus offers to us all can make life better today; not just when we die. We believe our work can make life better for all of us: today!
This is one of the reasons why we value the power of prayer so much. We think we’d be useless without it. So let’s do our best to pray both communally and individually before our meetings, our shifts and even before we start our days. I’m pretty sure it’ll make a massive difference in our work. I’ve witnessed it first hand as I’m sure you have too.
Let’s keep on trying to be ‘The Hand of God in the Heart of the City’.
Dion Oxford, Director of Mission Integration
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.