Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Forgotten Metaphor

I'll never forget the earnest zeal of the pastor, with a handshake-turned-to-death-grip hold on me at the back of the sanctuary. I had hoped to slip out quietly after the fearsome hell-fire-and-damnation sermon he'd just preached.

"Brother, are you saved?", he asked with penetrating gaze, augmenting his iron grip on my hand with the furrowed brow of concern and a commanding tone of voice.

I had been hitch-hiking to (a different) church that evening, but the pouring rain and lack of rides made the little church I was walking past look like a viable alternative. There was no way of knowing that I was about to have a completely cross-cultural experience, right there in my town of birth.

I was able to escape after a short (mostly one-sided) debate -- it didn't seem to matter how many times I assured him that I was a Christian, he wasn't convinced.

There are probably a lot of words in common usage among Christians that are misunderstood, caricatured, and mocked. "Saved" would definitely be one of those, even among self-identified Christians. Experiences such as the one I just mentioned, have resulted in my tendency to avoid using the word, as well. And I suspect I'm not alone. The mental picture of loud, obnoxious lamprey-zealots crazed with wild-eyed fervor... well, you know. (shudder)

But at the same time, the word 'save' (saves, saved, salvation) appears literally hundreds of times through the Bible. It is the most common word referring to our faith in what Jesus Christ did for us. Why should the lunatic fringe be allowed to deprive us of a word so rich in meaning?

Perhaps the time of finding 'alternative metaphors' is past. Maybe, instead, we should invest our time and energy in exploring the richness of the original term, and allow a positive connotation to emerge in place of the caricature.

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