Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is Salvation Selfish?

One of the major Biblical characterizations of humanity in its natural, default state is that we are selfish. "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." [2 Tim 3:2] This is in radical contrast to the two great commandments highlighted by Jesus - love God and love your neighbour. [Matt 22:37-40] Not only Jesus' teaching, but also his life, was characterised by selflessness. He took a towel and washed his disciples' feet. He always looked after other people's needs and concerns, [Phil 2:4-5] giving his life as a sacrifice for his enemies. [Ro 5:10]

So, here's a question. To obtain salvation (by grace alone through faith alone) is to accept eternal life from God. Isn't this the ultimate act of instinctive self-preservation? Surely this act is motivated by selfishness? I agree in one sense - becoming saved is the last selfish act we perform, since once we are Christians, our lives should become living sacrifices - given over in service to God and others.

But actually, we really need to define what we mean by selfishness. To take what we need to survive is only selfish if we are depriving others: Hence we breathe, but there's enough air to go around so that's not selfish. On the other hand, we in western society consume more than our fair share of world food, etc - perhaps this is selfishness?

Returning to the topic of salvation - when we accept what God gives us, are we preventing anyone else from getting it? The answer is a resounding no! God's gift is infinite - the world is His scope. In fact, when we become Christians, we might be starting a spiritual chain reaction, resulting in other people being saved. The apostle Paul is a good example of this. So no - while salvation may be self-preservation, it's not selfishness.