What Is Salvation?

admitting you're an assholeRecently, a friend posted the following status on Facebook: “I’m glad not being an asshole is not a prerequisite of salvation.” I responded “Hmm, looks like we define “salvation” differently. Not to mention, “asshole” and went about my business, which included a morning at Love Wins and a trip to the store to replenish someone’s supply of peanut M&M’s. I didn’t really stop thinking about it, though, wondering how I might reply if someone questioned my comment. As I thought about it, I began to realize there might be a blog post in there somewhere. There was and this is it.

So, how do I define “salvation”? First, let’s take a look at the dictionary (stop rolling your eyes, damn it) and see what it has to say about this word. As usual, Merriam-Webster has multiple definitions, but the one that applies in this context is “deliverance from the power and effects of sin”. There are other definitions out there, but this is the one I like. It’s simple, it’s direct and it’s free from proselytizing. Of course, it doesn’t really answer the question. In fact, it kind of brings up another one: what is sin? This time, you’re in luck because I don’t have to go to the dictionary for an answer. Several years ago, a pastor I respect and admire said sin was anything that separates us from God. And, that’s where asshole comes into the equation.

I did go to the dictionary for this and found a classic example of why I love these dusty old tomes. I googled “asshole”, expecting only to find an entry on Urban Dictionary. But, to my surprise (and delight), it had entries in Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster, The Free Dictionary and even the Oxford English Dictionary. I mean, seriously, a vulgar word like “asshole” in the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary? How cool is that? (Yes, I’m geeking out. Shut up) For once, all the definitions were pretty much in agreement: as asshole is a stupid, irritating, incompetent, mean or detestable person (a combination of all the definitions). So, what does this have to do with sin? For me, to be separated from God is to not love my neighbor because that is only way I can get my head around loving such an abstract concept like God. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re being stupid, irritating, incompetent, mean or detestable, you’re not loving your neighbor.

Now, if you’re a normal person, you’ve already seen a glaring error in this piece; I didn’t until I was deep into it. Right in the middle of this stunning display of theological brilliance, I realized I had missed one important word in Terry’s status: “not”. As in “not being an asshole is not a prerequisite of salvation”. Once again, my ADD had bitten me in the ass.

Once I saw my mistake, I struggled with salvaging all the work I’d put into this until I realized my jerkitude (entry #2) actually illustrated the point at hand: salvation does not preclude humanity. In other words, salvation isn’t losing the capacity to be an asshole; it is the realization you can be an incredibly assy person and the instilling of a desire to change that.