by Heath Firkin
It was good to gather again together as a church, online, to pray, and to reflect upon the scriptural passages for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost (Ephesians 2:4–10; Luke 8:26–39). One word that was brought up in our discussion was “salvation.” Fr Doru shared with us that in New Testament Greek this word means “healing,” and that we, human beings, need to be healed from our brokenness. After the liturgy, I pondered salvation further, to gain a better understanding. Perhaps whoever reads this will find these thoughts useful too.
The word “salvation” is found throughout the standard English translation of the Scriptures well over one hundred times in both the Old and New Testaments. The first instance is in Genesis 49:18: “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.” The last instance is in Revelation 19:1: “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God.” The consistent presence of this word in Scripture spurred my curiosity. What does “salvation” actually mean for Christians?
The Oxford Dictionary gives two meanings, as follows:
- Preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.
- (Theology) Deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ.
These definitions reminded me of our discussion about the need to be healed from brokenness. Sin leads to harm, ruin, and loss, much like the man in the Gospel passage, who had been possessed by demons (Luke 8:26–39). This man, very likely, had succumbed to sin, which was working its destructive purposes in his life. This led to demon possession. As a result, this man had become harmful to himself and others, prompting his neighbours to bind him often, albeit to no avail. His life before meeting Christ was in a state of ruin. He walked about with no clothes on in lonely places, such as cemeteries, and was unable to contribute to the community in which he was now an outcast. This man must have experienced great loss. It would not be unreasonable to think that, before all this, he was an active member of his community; he may have had a family, business, and a social position. But now all was lost to him. Before meeting Christ, he was certainly a broken person. As we reflect upon his brokenness and the hopelessness of his situation, we begin to see what we need to be delivered from—and our inability to repair ourselves on our own.
The brokenness of the demoniac causes believers to look at themselves more closely and ask, “are we so different?” While most of us might not be dwelling naked in a cemetery, as outcasts from the society around us, we are nonetheless at risk. We can end up in a similar position if we allow sin to enter into our hearts and take root. The ways in which we can allow sin in our hearts vary. As we discussed as a group, the man in the Gospel passage may well have been overcome by a materialistic drive. We might find ourselves in a similar place, or somewhere along that path. And if we continue down that slippery slope—for example, if we find ourselves spending time thinking upon material things such as wealth, status, and power, instead of remembering God in all things—we might be already sliding away from God, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Thanks be to God, this is where Jesus steps in to save us, to offer us a new life through faith in His saving grace. In the Gospel passage, it appears that only the demons actually recognise Jesus for who He really is. The One who is able to offer true salvation, true deliverance, true healing for broken humanity. Once the demons had been cast out by Jesus, the restored man was able to act upon the gift of faith that had been already imparted to him by the Lord. He asked Jesus if he could stay with Him and the disciples, but was told to return to his former house and to show the people what great things God had done. He had to keep pressing forward in this new life of following Jesus. Salvation, here, is about being healed and woken up by Jesus in order to embark on a new life of following Him and of becoming more unified with Him gradually, by His grace and by walking on the path of virtue. Salvation is a two-way road.
The fruits of this new life with Jesus are “good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Doing sincere good in the world for no reason but love for God and one’s neighbour is what salvation is about. It also is a way of thanking God for the saving grace that heals us.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, thank you for your saving grace. Help us to live accordingly. Amen.
Heath Firkin is a a convert to the Orthodox Church and a member of Saint Gregory’s Orthodox Mission (the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand). He tries to be a follower of Christ since he was 21 years old. He is blessed to be a husband and father of three children. He works for a Disability Service Provider based in Sydney.
Acknowledgment: Photo of the Firkins family at Saint Gregory’s, by Otilia Costache. 17 September 2022
30 October 2023 © AIOCS
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