Salvation as Ongoing Conversion

An underlying presupposition that often defines, or begins to color, our understanding of salvation is that it is transactional or contractual. To put a blunt point on it, we basically think of it as a deal we make with God no matter how we dress it up. That runs counter to the Scriptural narrative in spite of our fancy theologizing about “covenant.”

The disturbing realization I, and other “Western Christians” I hang out with, is that the unconscious paradigm we are using to conceptualize (hear and receive and live out) our faith in Christ Jesus is essentially one of “exchange” and “transcation” and “progress,” and “measurement.”

But, once again, the overarching Scriptural narrative does not confirm such a paradigm. It confirms one that is just about as different from that one as you can get.

(I would add, parenthetically, that our unconscious “this world” paradigm also influences how we view marriage. Hmm… The subject for a future post…)


“when Jesus tells us that there is more joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner who has strayed than over ninety-nine others who seemingly have no need of repentance, he is not affirming that God loves sinners more deeply than righteous persons. For Jesus, speaking in this specific context, there are no righteous persons. There are only sinners (people who feel their need for conversion) and self-righteous persons (people who are sinners and have not yet acknowledged their need for repentance).

Conversion, at least in this particular context, is not a precondition to the Christian life. It is the Christian life. There are no righteous persons, only sinners, and the Christian journey is always a journey of conversion, a returning to the fold. We open ourselves to receive the love of God whenever we are conscious of that.  God does favor sinners, but that includes all of us.”
Ronald Rolheiser


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