(Neuroscience of Faith & Sanctification Series)
“Saved from what?” It’s a question that I was asked once regarding all the jargon in Christianity about being “saved.” I never stopped to ask the question myself. I knew the answer was saved from hell, but it seemed so wrong to say it out loud. The term “saved” saturated evangelical Christianity in the nineties. But I never stopped to think about what that really meant. Our language shapes, forms, and focuses our perceptions and beliefs. By making this the focal point we were making avoiding hell the focal point of Christianity- not Christ.
How did I answer? I panicked. The only reason to become a Christian was because God threatened hell if we didn’t? I know that is not the true theological position but in a flash I realized that would be the only way it would come across. Then I thought back to when I became a Christian. It was not about hell at all, it was about needing help and feeling alone. I needed God’s help and his love.
I shared my internal struggle and said that the best answer I could give now is saved from a life without God, without true grace and unconditional love. It is impossible to talk about sanctification and faith without talking about the heart of Christianity- what does it mean to be a Christian?
Jesus states “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” declaring that Christianity is not about following rules or living a sinless life. It is about encountering “the truth”- himself. Real knowledge is experiential, real truth must be experienced, so he is declaring that we must experience him. It is radical to say follow me, not follow my teaching. It is radical to declare that you are the truth not that you are presenting the truth. But it makes so much sense when we understand the neurobiology of interpersonal relationships. We are changed by the relationships we engage in. Encountering God in a meaningful way over time will alter our brains. His truth will be stamped upon the very organ of our brain. A Jesus stamp will be visibly seen beneath our cranium. This is not a metaphor but a neurological reality. We spend way too much time figuring out the rules to be a Christian and serve God and too little time being with Him, attaching to Him.
Every question about living out our faith must be framed within the context of having a relationship with God, not trying to define the parameters of an organization, figuring out the boundaries of a culture, or developing ethical guidelines that determine and in group and out group. We must ask the questions with respect to our relationship- the quality of it, what we want from it, what we offer in it, etc…
Remember the words of Jesus- I no longer call you servants but brothers. The questions we ask ourselves, the way we live out our lives, and most certainly the way in which we interact with God changes dramatically if we consider ourselves family or servants.