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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Who gets saved?

Believers have responsibility to testify to help others know God’s love is for all

Ask most Christians what they think salvation means and you are likely to get some language about getting into heaven. If you probe deeper, you may hear there are certain things you must believe or say about Jesus because he is the one who issues the tickets into heaven. He is the bouncer who controls entrance into the velvet-roped VIP section reserved exclusively for those who call themselves Christian.

What you are hearing is some version of the idea that if you practice religion in a particular way, you will be saved. Yet no religion can save us. God alone saves. We Christians do not believe in Christianity. We believe in God. God alone has the truth. God is truth. No religion possesses the whole truth on God. In our best moments, we know that Jesus is larger than any single religion.

God loved the world enough to gift this world with God’s son. That’s the claim of John 3:16. We may be tempted to believe that God so loved Christians, that God gave all who name Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior exclusive rights into a special club. But Jesus is universal Lord and Savior, not just my personal Lord and Savior. He saves the whole world, and this doesn’t happen through tribal membership. 

We ought to think of the work of Jesus Christ as cosmic in scope. He is the light of the world, not merely the light of the Christian community. He refuses to be
co-opted by any culture or possessed by any religion. He disassembles every category that followers want to erect for believing he is exclusive to their claims. In short, Jesus shuns domestication, giving no right for one group to say to another: “My God is better than your God.” 

So what do we make of Jesus’ oft-quoted word to his disciples? “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It’s helpful if we remind ourselves that Jesus is not hosting a theological summit here, delivering an essay on proper doctrine. He is using the language of love to speak intimately with his closest friends. They are anxious about his forthcoming departure.


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