We all need to stretch our income as far as we can so when a BOGO sale comes along, who can resist! Buy one, get one free is too good to pass. For a long time, this was the practice of the Church, buy an indulgence, get a free pass on sin. But 499 years ago, in the area we now call Germany, a 34 year old priest by the name of Martin Luther had the nerve to say, “There’s something wrong with this picture! I cannot find a price list for forgiveness in the Bible.
In fact when I read the Bible, grace is free and salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.” Just to make sure everyone knew he was right and they were wrong, Martin Luther nailed his corrections to the front door of the church where he was sure they would get noticed. And they were. However, not everybody was happy about this. Luther had to sneak out of town in the middle of the night and several years later was kicked out of the Roman Catholic Church.
Fast forward 250 years to England. John Wesley was a young priest in the Anglican Church (which only came into being because of Luther and his corrections). Wesley said, “You know, I am sure Luther was right. Grace is a free gift of God and there is nothing we can do or say to get that grace or to force God to give it to us. Not only that, when I read the Bible and look at people I see there are different flavors of grace. God uses all these forms of grace to lead us to him. I think I will call this ‘The Way of Salvation.’”
Wesley’s Way of Salvation is not unlike the Amazing Race. On the Amazing Race, everyone starts at the same place, everyone has to get to the same check points along the way but not everybody takes the same path, and the goal is to get all the way to the finish. There are a few important differences.
- The Amazing Race is only amazing because of all the strange places the racers have to go and all the strange things they have to do along the way. Wesley’s Way of Salvation is amazing because of the manner that God works in our lives as we go along the way (ever wonder why we sing Amazing Grace?).
- On the Amazing Race there are losers every step of the way and if you lose you are eliminated. Period. On the Way of Salvation no one is eliminated. The worst that happens is you go back to the beginning. God never gives up on anyone. The saddest thing is that some people never leave the starting point.
- The Amazing Race only has a very few competitors. These few are carefully selected by the show’s producers. With the Way of Salvation everybody is allowed to participate. There are no pre-qualifications, no applications, no interviews. It is open to everyone. God loves all persons and would never keep anyone from following his way.
- Sadly, on the Amazing Race only one team wins and everyone else is a disappointed loser. On the Way of Salvation there is no limit to the number of winners. Anyone who perseveres and completes the race wins! It does not matter how many reached the finish line beforehand, the angels in heaven are there to cheer for everyone who makes it. John Wesley came to understand that even those who do not make it to the very end are still better off than if they had just stayed at the starting point.
- On the Amazing Race, the producers don’t care who wins and they never interfere or help except for medical emergencies. On the Way of Salvation, God wants you to win and he will help you win. God’s rules are: if you stumble, I will catch you; if it is dark, I will guide you; if you are worried, I will comfort you; if you are weak, I will give you strength; if you lose your way, I will lead you back; you are never alone, I am with you always.
- The Amazing Race is a “reality show.” In truth it is far more show than reality. The Way of Salvation is reality, nothing more, nothing less. There is a time limit – the length of our life on this earth. Every day we have the choice to move along this amazing Way of Salvation or not. I hope you choose to follow.