One sort of Christian believes taking Eucharist weekly saves her. Another Christian believes his confession of Jesus Christ as Lord saves him. Still another looks to his Baptism. Another to her participation in the body of Christ. One to his repentance. And another to her care for the sick, the hungry, the prisoner, and the poor.
We elevate one belief or practice over another, then divide ourselves as Christ followers by the priority we set when, in fact, all of these are taught as saving by Christ, who alone is our salvation.
Christ saves me, not the accuracy and purity of my beliefs. Christ saves me, not my works. Christ saves me, not the measure of my adherence to a doctrine or practice.
When all is said and done, many Christians tend to look to their habits, their faith, and their perseverance when it comes to salvation rather than to the work, belief, and faithfulness of Christ in us, over us, under us, and through us.
In my experience, Christians who object the most to the "works righteousness" of sacramental Christians or the "charitable works" of activist Christians have a set of intellectual "works" in which they ultimately place their trust.
In the Gospels Christ makes our salvation about our confession and our action. Yet it is all grace.
Dwelling in us by the Spirit of the Father's Love, Christ redeems us — by our repentance, by our confession, by the new birth of baptism, by bread and wine made somehow flesh and blood, by our fellowship with each other, by his charity, as we labor with Christ as he cares for those at the margins of life through us.
Instead of participating in these gifts of salvation piecemeal, elevating one belief or practice over another, one grace over another, the Scriptures teach that ALL of these graces are central to our redemption and that Jesus is who we get, and who has us, when we believe and practice them.
Can Christ be divided?
It is Christ that is for all of us in all these gifts. It is Christ who seeks to unite us by these gifts. It is Christ alone who saves us.
The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Mich. Follow him on Twitter: @kennethtanner.
Image: Abstract smoke image, grace illustration, Amnartk / Shutterstock.com