Is Salvation given freely?

See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. -Revelation 21:3&4

Dear members and friends,

Salvation by grace is something that I have struggled with for a long time. When I first learned of it, I felt loved and freed by God. But at the same time, I saw and knew that there was a darkness in me. Thus, I was in a deep despair with the certainty that I would never enter into the light by my own efforts. But, the message said, “God loves me regardless of who I am, and saves me by grace.” My struggle began when I acknowledged the fact that simply feeling loved by God and being liberated from the burden of having darkness in me did not change who I was; it only changed how I felt about myself. Oddly, I felt less guilty about having dark thoughts and desires after the youth pastor officially announced that I was “saved by God”. This sensation of being liberated by God somehow took away not only the inner burden, but also the desire to remove the darkness I felt in the first place. Why? The teaching of pastors was clear: God loves and saves me even knowing that I am flawed! So, knowing that I’m already saved despite the darkness within, what would compel me to cultivate myself to remove that darkness?

In Gospels, Jesus teaches very clearly that salvation requires something on our side. However, many Christians seem to believe that accepting Jesus as their Savior means stating that belief aloud at church on Sundays, and that is good enough to acquire the promised salvation. Believing Jesus to be their Savior at the time of Jesus was an entirely different matter from believing so these days: they were willing to believe something that was radical enough to literally cost their own lives! Therefore, when the people in Judea confessed to Jesus that “You are the Messiah!,” what they were doing was much more than just saying the sentence. They were willing to accept the social consequences they could endure as a result of believing in Jesus, even if it were their own death. If you were truly willing to die for it, you would not have any reservation in following further instructions to cultivate yourself, would you?

After all, what is salvation really? Isn’t it being united with God who is love itself? How on earth have we developed a belief system that allows people to stay who they are without any change internally, and yet to believe that they could be united with God? Indeed, salvation is by the grace of God, meaning by the divine power that is activated by the divine love within. Yet, unless we embody the principles of love, the union is an impossibility; not because God reject us, but because we reject God.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee