I have been wondering about something today. Perhaps you can weigh in with some helpful answers.
Is there a difference between a rescue fantasy and a treatment plan? And, if so, which one comes closer to matching what we might call God’s work in the world through Jesus Christ and those who claim the moniker of Christians. Is today's brand of Christianity more interested in being saved or in getting well? More interested in being rescued or in being restored?
You may find it interesting to note that in the biblical New Testament, there are more than 50 references in English to the word “saved.” Only 2 of those references are translated from the Greek word, “soteria,” meaning rescue from God’s wrath or other situation of danger. The remainder of references are translated from the Greek word, “sozo,” meaning to deliver, heal, rescue, or make whole. Jesus, himself, was quoted as only using “sozo” and not “soteria” when speaking of what we call being “saved” in English.
You may say this is a difference without a distinction, but I’m not so sure.
I’ve worked enough years……er, decades……in behavioral healthcare to recognize the distinction between those who approach me for counseling expecting me to do all the work of recuing them from their distress and those expecting they, too, will have to do the work of being made well. Rescue fantasies are not treatment plans. Doing for the other is not the same as doing with the other. And I’m reasonably certain other healthcare providers across a broad spectrum would agree with me on at least that point.
By true confession, I can assure you there have been times when I’ve visited other healthcare workers and received homework exercises or diets that I then went home and, paperwork setting in a stack somewhere, largely ignored. I felt badly enough to seek out rescue but not enough to follow the actual treatment plan for getting well.
Participating in healthcare where one awaits rescue by a professional provider is really indistinct from participating in Christianity where one awaits rescue by Christ. It amounts to placing one’s faith in a provider’s magical powers but not following that provider’s helpful advice. We often call such faith wishful or magical or even childish thinking.
Perhaps we should shift the paradigm of Christianity from believing in a Christ who rescues us to instead following the advice of a Christ who restores us. Perhaps we should place our faith not in our own rescue fantasy but in God’s own treatment plan. Perhaps we should take seriously the 50+ references to “sozo” more than the 2 references to “soteria” in the Bible’s New Testament. To do otherwise may mean that we never get well. And to never get well may mean others will largely ignore our claims to have a great physician named Jesus.
I'm still wondering. And curious what you think.