There is a basic incredulity about the idea of of salvation. At its most fundamental it is more improbable than the existence of the universe. It is a meal no chef I can imagine can prepare: the ingredients are not only bloody, bitter and inhumane, but wholly beyond physical and intellectual reach. And we have become a rather sensitive species.
How can it be? Three songs express this truth with the grace which, I guess only music can really impart to the details of the matter. The first is Lauren Daigle’s How Can it be. She opines, “You gave your life to give me mine.” The same strain is heard in the much older hymn “And can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
Yet the unbelievable part is not really in the fact of salvation, nor even in the mechanism of it. Though it may appear so, many Christians already accept -even if without fully understanding – these ideas. That is why they are Christians to begin with. When we ask How can it be, it is more out of joy than confusion. Rather, the difficulty is in the result and implication of salvation: freedom.
Beyond the theoretical assent that we have been delivered from metaphorical Egypt or Babylon or other typical representation of sin’s cold grip, each professing Christian has to believe in actuality that they are free, and to practice this freedom in the everyday life. This is a difficult thing for a very clear reason. Namely, there is a cognitive dissonance that arises when we observe the repeated failures and weakness of our moral will, vis-a-vis the Bible’s insistence that we are “new creatures”. The preacher’s regular answer is that we are not fully surrendered. He’s right. But can we really become another Man? And is that freedom?
Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made you free. That is the exhortation of Galatians 5:1. I find that I am more at home with that exhortation than with the torture of attempting to reconcile failure with desired success, for that is always what freedom in Christ is – a reality inseparably united with the desire of Christ for our lives. We can certainly increase in our experience of this freedom. We can, through Christ, overcome temptations, sinful habits, and grow in grace towards our neighbours – and we should, if there is anything to our name. But let us not be fooled into thinking our freedom is anything apart from what Christ intends for us to be and enables us to be. Our best experiences of freedom aim at the fact, but they are not the fact.
It is the call of Emily Felts-Jones: “Go free. Go free. In the name of Jesus, go free!