Slow-burn salvation

Many people always see only the disadvantages of the present state of affairs and only the advantages of the one that ought to replace it. What is more, they think that all you have to do is destroy what exists and The Ideal will at once arise from its ruins – and they don’t give a thought to how this might occur. Anyone who shows himself ready to offer practical help to the present reality, with all its defects, is defamed for supporting injustice, for opposing the kingdom of justice.

-Henri de Lubac, Paradoxes of Faith, p.167

Revolution often seen as the way forward instead of reform to our modern eyes. (“Let’s ditch this lame church institution and cook up our own awesomeness!”) or in foreign policy (“Let’s undermine that dictator and install a democracy in that country. That will fix everything!”) There are a ton of examples in the past century, decade, or even in the past year that have been disasters. Our model of disposable materialism even supports this. You don’t ever repair your iPhone when it dies – you get a new one of course. Same with clothes that wear out. An old world tailor is a reformer. Cheap retail textiles from east Asia offer us an endless stream of clothing revolution.

But this is not the wise way, which always seems to demand some kind of heavy patience. It is not God’s way either.

What is the answer to _____ (fill in the blank) problem of the world? The answer, once again, is some kind of slow burn. Some people denounce the Bible for not denouncing slavery proper at the first opportunity. Shouldn’t there be something about in on about the 2nd page of Acts? But the seeds that grew into freedom were all there – they just needed to be watered and they were.

What we see in scripture is a patient progression. God saves his people in time – sometimes a really LONG time. What happened to all those individuals in the meantime? They didn’t see the day of the Lord, but they were still part of the salvation. They had to be. The prophets were holy men, but they didn’t get to see it.

For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (Matthew 13:17)

Some of them died in exile in Babylon. But were they not still part of God’s salvation? Of course they were. They still count even though they passed out of the story before the last page.

WE in fact are not on the last page either, even if the climax has already occurred. It doesn’t seem too hard to extend Jesus’s parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) to this “slow burn salvation” as well. The people there from the beginning AND the latecomers both got paid full wages! So we are rewarded for being faithful, even if when we pass from this life, everything is still seems to be a big mess. Our part in the story was still played and it wasn’t trivial.

The resurrection is like a big full-cast Bollywood dance number played while the credits role. Everyone who died is back in the chorus with the surviving hero from the last scene. They may not have even known each other in life, but they all know the same steps now.