Read Romans 10:8-13
On the hall of an old abandoned house was scrawled some graffiti: “Jesus is the answer.” Written underneath, in a very different handwriting, was the quip: “What’s the question?”
We sometimes speak in religious clichés, without thinking about the deeper meaning of our expressions. Today’s excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Romans contains a very well-known line: “If you believe, then you will be saved.” Someone could well ask: “Saved from what?”
Many would answer: “From hell, obviously.” Yet, this answer isn’t all that obvious. Read Paul’s letter to the Romans: you won’t find a single instance of the word “hell.” So what does Paul believe we are being saved from?
Sticking with his letter to the Romans, we find his answer: “From God’s anger.” But then, another question arises: “What do you mean by God’s anger?”
Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. According to Paul, God’s anger has two dimensions. An eternal dimension, which corresponds to God’s will to banish evil from creation so that only love will abide. This eternal dimension will be fulfilled at the end of time in what we call the last judgment.
God’s anger also has a temporal dimension, one which affects us here and now. This is God allowing our evil choices to bear their consequences in our lives. This is God respecting our freedom, standing back as we suffer from the wrongs that we have chosen. Think of global warming. We have abused creation for decades, even centuries. We are only starting to understand the consequences of these evil choices. God’s anger is God allowing these consequences to happen.
What hurts us more immediately is the fruit of the evil we choose on a daily basis. If I choose to be selfish, should I be surprised to find myself abandoned by all, alone in my loneliness? If I choose to give in to every sexual whim of my imagination, should I be astounded never to know the deep joy that comes from a stable, faithful relationship? If I continually choose to be lazy, should I be angry that I never seem to accomplish anything? My sin leads to my own suffering, as well as to the suffering of others.
This is what we need to be saved from. In Jesus, the power of evil can be overcome. We can be freed from our own sinful inclination. We can finally live out of love and come to know true joy, deep peace. Faith in Christ saves us from the hell we are building ourselves day by day. Faith in Christ helps us discover heaven, in the here and now.