On Friday Collective were at a special school for young people with severe learning difficulties where they took two extended assemblies, one for each half of the school. It was an amazing time and there was oodles of enjoyment for all involved. I think we were at least as blessed to be there as they were to have us.
It got me wondering again, as I’m sure we all have at some time, about what ‘salvation’ looks like for these young people. Our standard formulas of believing and confessing Jesus as Lord would seem to be inaccessible to at least some. Paul writes… “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9) What if even this is beyond your capability?
All this raises the bigger question about what salvation looks like for any of us. I think firstly it must be related to our capacity to respond to God. When working out how people who don’t have the OT law can be righteous before God, Paul notes that… “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law”. (Rom 9:24) We are all responsible for our own response to God, each according to our capacity.
And what of those whose capacity to respond is even more limited? Can they be saved without making a clear response? Paul makes an intriguing statement in 1 Cor 7:14 about unbelieving partners being sanctified through the faith of their spouse. And in Acts, whole households appear to have been saved. Without diminishing the importance of a personal response, it does seem that people may be saved by being a part of a saving community or relationship. For a while, my wife worked with L’Arche, a network of communities for people with learning disabilities rooted in Christian spirituality – salvation expressed through community.
So I’m left with two big challenges – not expecting a response to the gospel always to look like intellectual assent. And expecting salvation to look a little more convincing in some expression of church or community.
This touches on the very heart of what is meant by salvation, so it’s rather important.
Do you have any thoughts or real world experience you could share?