“I accept The Lord Jesus as my personal savior,” has become the modern formulation of becoming a Christian. It is so common that we fail to see it is relatively recent and in many ways it fails to express the Gospel. Clearly, this formula arose in a culture that values commercial transactions and in an evangelical environment that values heaven above Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life. Many times when approached with the question of my accepting Jesus as my personal savior I’m asked where I am going at the moment of my death. When I point out that few of the Bible conversion stories have such a pattern, the person asking me about Jesus as my personal savior stares blankly back. If the Gospel is not about me getting into heaven, what’s the point? Christianity is about heaven, right? Jesus coming to be with us as the Way, the Truth and the Life is just window dressing.
The formula’s key words arise within the two little words, “my” and “personal.” These two words are the ones that make it both the subject and the attitude of the formula. The point of the formula is me, me, me — perfect for the “me” generation. They are also the places where the biggest issues are for Christian living. They betray the fact that the focus is still dead on the individual and not God, nor living. The point of the formula is to continue with the self at the center. The action is taken by the speaker and not God. I do the accepting and Jesus is passive in the formula. Like a good consumer, I choose who my personal savior will be. Once I make the transaction of choosing the right personal savior, I get to go to heaven. Much like a “personal” trainer is in my hire to make my body better, a “personal” financial advisor is there to make my money work for me, the “personal” savior is there at my beck and call to get my spiritual life working. The end results for the trainer, financial advisor and the savior is the point, great body, great retirement, and getting to heaven or its about me, me, me. We, like good consumers, can ask for a money back guarantee.
The problem, of course, is treating the creator of the universe as a tool for one’s ends. Jesus is the savior of the world, a universal category and not simply a hired hand to get one into heaven. The point is Jesus, not me. When Jesus says the Kingdom of God is at hand, he means something about how we are to live and how we are in any given moment. We also join a larger community that is beyond our small world.
I have been approached at airports, county fairs and many public places. Each time the call is to go deeper into my own ego. The call is not to love others and God, Jesus’s commandment to his followers, but to love my own hyde and worry about me, me, me and how I, yes me, the only really one I care about me, me, me and how I, yes me, get into heaven. In many ways, it can tempt us into avoiding Jesus as the savior of the world and turn him into another consumer good for own small pleasure. When the Gospel becomes only about getting into heaven, how can we hear the true Gospel underneath it. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life and it more than simply my personal savior for my Way, my Truth, and my Life. Lord Jesus calls me and accepts me as a lowly servant and I follow because he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Art, says Ernesto Tinajero, comes from the border of what has come before and what is coming next. Tinajero uses his experience studying poetry and theology to write about the intersecting borders of art, poetry and religion.