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Saved to Save?
by Major Stephen Court

 

‘Wait, wait, wait – some say, we’re here to serve, not to save.’

 

Some might note that even official SA publications make the ‘serve’ mistake.

 

Our quick response is, ‘are you allowed to do that?’ This is a fundamental dictum of The Salvation Army. Can you slide in and decide to make other ‘improvements’? Maybe you figure that the ‘blood’ in our slogan is a bit too gory and crude so you decide to ‘improve’ it as a painter once did by mistakenly painting ‘Flood and fire’. Is that legitimate?

 

Or what if you figure that ‘others’ is going to dissipate concentration and focus on making ourselves everything we ought to be by sucking energy and resources that could be used to prepare/ maintain/ bless ourselves SO THAT we are in a position to help/serve/save others? So ‘Others’ quickly is ‘improved’ to ‘Ourselves’.

 

Or what if we conclude that ‘Heart to God and hand to man’ is just a little offensive to both non-religionists and women? So we ‘improve’ it to ‘Heart open and hand out’ or something?

 

Or what if ‘the world for God’ is just a little too embarrassing when we’re in conversation with church types who don’t buy it or with non-church types who just don’t get it at all? So we ‘improve’ it to ‘The Salvation Army exists to share the love of Jesus Christ, meet human needs and be a transforming influence in the communities of our world’ (one territory’s mission statement, which, by the way, is a vast improvement on an old committee-speak, politically-correct statement full of conditions and allusions to religion and race and gender and so on, that, if I interpreted it correctly, said, in essence, ‘please don’t sue us’).

 

Or what if being ‘ready to preach, pray or die at a moment’s notice’ just seems silly now so we ‘improve’ it to ‘ready to help, hope, or harm reduce at a moment’s notice’? (or at least, during office hours… AND, no matter what you do, DO NOT EVEN THINK about having a ‘client’ over to your quarters, let alone LIVE there!)

 

Or how about ‘fire a volley!’? Surely that could be/has been (in most places) ‘improved’ to ‘hmmmmm’ (accompanied, in some cultures, with a head nod)?

 

Or, finally, let’s hit closer to today: ‘save souls, grow saints, and serve suffering humanity’. But maybe General Gowans, a celebrated wordsmith, was just working the alliterative angle and rhythm a bit overtime here. Maybe we should simplify things by ‘improving’ it to read simply, ‘serve suffering humanity’?

 

How can we change ‘this is our speciality - getting saved, keeping saved, and getting someone else saved’, to ‘getting served, keeping served, and getting someone else served’? Or, how can we change ‘go for souls and go for the worst’ to ‘go for (government?) service contracts and go for the biggest’?

 

It SOUNDS like a subtle difference. After all, The Army is famous for its effective service. And we intend to glorify God in and through our lives (sometimes through service).

 

However, the result is a completely different mission.

 

One is to save our family members; the other is to serve them.

 

One is to save the marginalised; the other is to serve them.

 

One is to save gross sinners; the other is to serve them.

 

One is a Salvation agency; the other is a service agency.

 

One is to save the world (from sin); the other is to serve the world (in its sin).

 

So, an addict stumbles in off the street. ‘Saved to Save’ preaches the Gospel as a means of becoming a new creation through Jesus’ forgiveness and deliverance. ‘Saved to Serve’ detoxes and teaches that he is a recovering addict forever.

 

And so on. Not only does mere ‘Serv’ice without salvation do a disservice to the one served in that it leaves them bound for hell, but it does a disservice to our Lord who came to seek and to save us all. It ends up not helping us much either, in that we’ve proven disobedient and ineffective (if our service does not include the goal of saving).

 

Does the ‘Saved to Save’ serve as well? Yes. Of course.

 

Does the ‘Saved to Serve’ save as well? Maybe. Who knows? It is not guaranteed from that motto (Praise God that thousands get saved through some aspects of our service). General William Booth, writing in ‘The Salvationist’ in 1879, summed up our purpose in the following simple but striking way:

 

“We are a salvation people - this is our speciality - getting saved and keeping saved, and then getting somebody else saved, and then getting saved ourselves more and more until full salvation on earth makes the heaven within.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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