- Mark Janzen
Our Common Salvation
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-24)
On January 15, 2009, US Airways flight 1549 took off from the LaGuardia Airport in New York. Just a few short minutes later, after encountering a flock of geese, the engines lost power, and the pilot had to make the difficult decision of crash landing on the Hudson River. The passengers were warned to prepare for a hard landing, and they all feared the worst as the plane descended quickly into the river. Miraculously, not one person died in the plane crash that day.
About one month later, all those who had survived the crash met at a planned reunion in a hotel conference room. As they waited for the crew to arrive, they were milling around, talking to one another, and hugging one another. Laughter was heard, and tears were shed, stories were shared, and gratitude and relief expressed, even though they barely knew one another. They had a special bond because they had all miraculously survived a plane crash together. There were smiles and hugs and well wishes all around. The passengers ranged from doctors and lawyers to children and blue-collar workers, and they were all together celebrating because they were alive!
When Captain Sullenberger and the rest of the crew from that ill-fated flight walked through the door a few minutes later, there was cheering and clapping to honour the captain whose heroic actions saved all 155 lives that day.
None of the passengers were there to take credit for what had been done, nor were they there to make a name for themselves. Instead, they were all forever grateful, honoring Captain Sullenberger for what he had done for them. They had one hero, and that was the pilot who landed that plane in the river, and saved their lives. They understood what the captain’s actions meant for them—life. They had nothing to do with the fact that they were alive; they had all been given a second chance at life by the actions of one brave pilot.
Dear Christian, you, too, have been saved from certain death by a true and better hero, Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us we were on our way to eternal punishment for our rebellion and sin towards God (Rom 3:23); we deserved death, and we were hurtling headlong on the path of destruction at great speed. But, when it seemed all hope for humanity was lost, Jesus came into this world and laid down his life so that we might live, and live eternally together with him.
So, when we come together as believers in Jesus Christ—as the church—it ought to look like the reunion of survivors, one month after that crash on the Hudson: pure gratitude and honour towards our hero for the gift of life we have been given. By the grace of God, we have life, and this grace is a gift we receive by faith (Rom 3:24). We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and our faith is also a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Everything about our salvation is a gift, and nothing we have done could warrant this gift. Our faith is not something we muster up in ourselves for which we take credit. No, it is a gift. And because it is a gift, we should only worship and honour the giver of the gift, and celebrate it with all the others who also received this gift.
There is nothing in us to boast about our status in the kingdom. Whether you are the paid pastor or layman, lawyer or criminal, doctor or sick person, the kindergarten student or university grad, all who are part of the church are saved by Jesus and given the gift of life. There is no room for boasting, only room for unity and togetherness, and celebration and honour for a great salvation by our great hero.
There is no room for one to exalt themselves above another since we have all come from death and sin to life eternal, as a pure gift of Jesus Christ. This should bring us together in unity, no matter the background, no matter the earthly status. It all levels out in the kingdom of God because we brought nothing to the table worthy of this new life.
All we have, from the size of our faith to our gifts and talents, is all a gift; we have nothing to boast about, nothing to elevate us above our brothers and sisters in Christ. This realization—that we are all sinners, doomed for the greatest destruction, yet saved by the grace of God through faith in him—ought to bring great unity to the body of Christ.
Far be it from us to exalt ourselves above others in status or importance in the local church, as we are all sinners saved by grace through faith, may we find the greatest unity in this amazing truth.
So, as we are waiting for our captain and hero to meet us face to face, we wait together with the church, living life together with one another, talking to one another, hugging one another, driving one another closer to Jesus, and loving one another as Christ loves his church. Laughter will be heard, and tears will be shed. Stories will be shared, gratitude and relief expressed, but above all, the rescuer and hero will be worshiped and honoured. All because we have been brought together by one thing, and one thing alone: faith in our rescuer, Jesus Christ, and his work on the cross.