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by Ed Bacon

While working on a recent sermon on the beautiful gospel text, “For God so loved the world (John 3:16),” I used a translation that consistently uses the word, “heal,” instead of the word, “salvation.” The translation by James Henson read, “God’s Likeness was not sent into the world to show the world in a bad light. But to bring healing to the world.”

Now, I’ve long known that “heal” and “wholeness” are legitimate translations for the Greek word that has traditionally been translated, “saved” or “salvation.”

However, this time around in studying the passages appointed for the 4th Sunday in Lent, I also noted Henson’s translation of the Epistle (Ephesians 2), “God healed us by loving us,” instead of “By grace you are saved.”

These passages focusing on healing in the here and now, rather than focusing on “being saved” in the hereafter, struck home. And this is why:

Most if not all of the pastoral work I’m called to do is about healing. People want to talk about healing their relationships, their own psyches, their histories, their traumas, their lack of love, their fear-based reference points, their grief. I am convinced that had the church been more focused on the here and now instead of the hereafter, there would be so much more health in the world.

So, during the course of the sermon I was preaching on the healing power of Divine Love, I said, “I’m giving up salvation for the rest of Lent.” That’s right. I’m focusing on healing. I’m sure I will not expunge the word, “saved” from my vocabulary. But from now on, salvation will mean the healing Jesus made tangible by living a life that was rooted and  grounded in love as well as all the healing properties that flow from that font.

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