PSALM 31:1-5, 15-16

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
    do not let me ever be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
    for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

15 My times are in your hand;
    deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love.

If human beings were perfect and self-sufficient, the very concept of salvation would have no meaning, at least as it applies to us. In that case, maybe we would be the gods and saviors of lower and less perfect beings. As it is, we are neither perfect nor self-sufficient, but limited and dependent in ways we often try to conceal or deny.

By virtue of occupying a particular location in reality we lack the full view from where we stand; so we long for wisdom and understanding. We often lose our bearings and get confused on the way through life; so we long for guidance and direction. Because we are moral beings, we frequently get pulled down by the weight of our guilt and regrets; so we long for forgiveness and a fresh start.

But we also tend to make enemies and get tangled in troubles of our own design; so we long for refuge and freedom. And even though life itself is a passing career, our blessing (or curse) of self-consciousness makes us susceptible to anxiety; so we long for peace and dream of living forever.

Add to this the fact that we are animal organisms who need protection, company, and nourishment from outside ourselves and the list lengthens considerably.

So we have a choice. Either we can accept this about ourselves and use these inherent deficiencies to inspire our reach into a provident reality, or we can resent the fact and refuse to rely on anyone or anything beyond ourselves. Obviously the second option amounts to some serious delusions, as severing all ties of dependency to the world around would result in the quick extinction of even the most stalwart and rugged egoist among us.

Salvation, then, comes in many varieties. But the fundamental insight behind them all is that human beings are participants in a complex system of cooperation, resource, grace and support. Both the act of releasing oneself in surrender to the provident nature of reality and stepping into a life posture of humility, trust, and gratitude is what is meant by faith.

Consequently there are two basic types of religion: the kind that shames and scandalizes our deficiency as something that separates us from God, and the kind that honors and celebrates it as the places where God can be most real to us.


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