Salvation history in 800 words

Throughout eternity God lives a life of love – three Persons loving and being loved perfectly.

God chose to share the life of love with creatures who would be gifted with God’s attributes of intelligence and free will, the essentials for loving.

Human intelligence tells us that for all to flourish, all must love. Nothing else makes sense.

The freedom to choose love is ours. Ours also, however, is the choice not to love, to turn love back on self.

The first people and all subsequent ‘Adams’ and ‘Eves’ chose self ahead of God.

They knew better than God, and would make themselves better than God – so they thought. So they chose not to love God through that obedience which God commanded out of sheer love and only for their good. They followed their own guidance and bore the self-inflicted, disastrous consequences.

Next, self-love turned against the other, dealing death.

In the person of Cain humans chose to hate rather than love one another. Human history was off to a bad start – and continued that way inexorably. Despite the intelligence and free will which ought to have resulted in love, respect and mutual service we have constantly chosen self-promotion.

God knew we would fail – not being gods with God’s flawless intelligence and loving will. God always had the solution in hand. We needed God to overcome our self-obsession. We needed help to choose love as God does, not as hapless humans inevitably do not.

God intervened as planned.

God prepared a people for the coming of the selfless lover. That people continued the history of prioritising self over obedience to God’s commands. One who would truly love, and lead others to love, was needed.

He couldn’t just be human, gifted with freedom to love but the inevitability not to. This human being had to be more. While fully human he required that spirit which would compel him always to choose love, instead of that which seduced and drove Adam and Eve and Cain.

This could only be God, the uncreated lover. Love became flesh. The Son – the second of the community of perfect lovers – was born the human Jesus.

Despite the temptations against love which he shared with all of us, Jesus, the human God, loved his Father, and every one he encountered, in all the many ways that human life requires. The Son did on earth in a human way what he did within the Trinity: he loved entirely.

Jesus proclaimed the reversal of the Adam/Eve/Cain paradigm. When asked what we must do to be saved, he “commanded” us to love God and love one another. Since example is the best form of preaching, he consistently did what he commanded.

He did it fully on the cross. In that moment, he gave everything to God and to us – his blood, his life, himself – out of pure love. Love was totally spent, and not a drop on himself.

It was the perfect example of love.

Example, however, no matter how perfect, is insufficient. I have many recordings of virtuosic pianists. I cannot play a note. I cannot imitate them. To perform like them I would need what they have.

What these prodigies possess is a composite of technique, musicality and imagination that I can envy, admire but not imitate. Several of the great masters have passed on something of their brilliance to gifted pupils.

Jesus has passed on his brilliance as lover. We humans are now able to love God and one another as Jesus did. This God-man, sharing our common humanity, shares with us his divine Spirit of love. It surpasses our all-too-human spirit of self-love. The Spirit of love can now be the spirit that motivates those who are one with Christ.

No person appropriated God’s Spirit more than Mary. She was saved from all self-love throughout her entire existence to be the model for loving and serving God and neighbour.

Our purpose in this world is to grow into Christ through his Spirit so that with him we are genuine lovers of God and our fellow human beings. This is salvation from that “useless way of life” of self-absorption, indifference and hatred which brings suffering, destruction and, ultimately, death. One with Christ, we love. On our own, we fail.

In the world beyond, our salvation is complete when fully united with God who does, and is, nothing but love. Salvation is achieved when we are what we were created to be, lovers of God and one another. No more will the lovelessness of Adam, Eve, and Cain prevail, but the fulfillment of God’s greatest “commandment”. We are saved by Love to love eternally. As it is within the Trinity, when all love completely, all are completely loved.

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Michael O’Connor

Michael O'Connor is a member of the Aurora Editorial Team.

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