For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:20
Dear members and friends,
A long time ago, my best friend who was Buddhist asked, “What did Jesus do to you so that you sing about being joyful for his birthday?” My answer, at that time, was the exact quote from my youth pastor, “Jesus saved me!” Then, he asked, “from what?” I knew what I supposed to say as an answer to that question, but I felt that the “right” answer did not make sense to me somehow. The “right” answer was that Jesus saved me from evil and sin, therefore from ultimate eternal death. Yet, I was not sure how he could have saved me 2,000 year prior to my birth and existence. Plus, I was perfectly aware of my inclinations and shortcomings which still existed in me even after “being saved.” More or less, I was exactly the same person. So then, what did it mean to be saved from evil and sin?
It was not until I met Emanuel Swedenborg that I found an agreeable answer to my friend’s question, what did Jesus save me from? Or more precisely, for the first time I was able to understand the actual meaning of the mission of Jesus’ life on earth and its relation to my life now. Also, what dawned to me clearly is that there is a subtle difference between redemption and salvation. What Jesus did for me about 2,000 years ago was an act of redemption, but not salvation, simply because I was not there yet to be saved. Thus, He is currently working with me on my salvation. According to the Old Testament, the act of redemption is defined as buying someone back by paying the debt. For an example, you became very poor and thus sold yourself as a slave, but your relative came and bought your freedom back. That is redemption. You are free again, but have nothing in your hand, meaning you are still poor. Now you have a choice to make: you can once again sell yourself as a slave, which could seem like an easier path, or you could work very hard to rebuild your life, which could seem like a very hard path. Up to this point is the work of redemption. However, salvation comes after the redemption and after a great deal of hard work. What Jesus did for all humans by coming into the world and taking human form was to give us a second chance. In other words, He gave us the true opportunity to choose either to be a slave of materialism or to cultivate ourselves as a spiritual being for which we were created! So, what would you choose?
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee