Words are somewhat like people, in that they can fall into bad company, run with the wrong crowd, and end up with a doubtful reputation.  Such a fate, it seems, has befallen the word “salvation”.  Because of its recent associations with some evangelical groups, one can hardly hear it without thinking of street-corner evangelists, claims of religious magic, and offers of easy one-way tickets to heaven.  And that is most unfortunate, because salvation is one of the great words of the Bible and one of the deepest needs of the human race.

Who can look on our world today without seeing the pressing urgency of salvation?  The threat of war and terrorism hangs in the air like a fog.  Entire nations including our own need to be saved from bitterness and strife.  Communities need to be saved from rot and decay.  And individuals need to be saved from sin and selfishness in which all of our social problems are rooted.

Long ago St. Peter said, “This Jesus is the stone rejected by you the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to be by which we are to be saved.”  St. Peter is talking to us about rebuilding our lives, rebuilding our nation, and rebuilding the world with Jesus as the cornerstone of it all.

Salvation, in the name of Jesus, then, means there is someone in this universe that we can treat other than  human genius and strength.  Yet Jesus also believed in His fellow man.  That is one of the most remarkable things about Him – His incredible faith in all sorts of people.  He saw the best that was in them and set Himself to bring it out.  But He never believed that a person’s best was an accident or an unaided achievement.  He believed that human nature at its best was a reflection of the God in whose image that person was made.

There are forces of salvation at work on whom we can depend and with whom we can align our efforts – saving truths, saving ideas, saving faith, saving hopes.  The best that is in you and me is backed up by the power and grace of God.  We can count on that; we can draw strength from it; and we can go out to face our task supported by it. That is one thing that salvation in the name of Jesus means.

All of us need that kind of personal salvation.  We need to be saved from our complacency by a disturbing vision of what we ought to be, to be saved from our fears by faith, to be saved from aimlessness by a sense of high   purpose, to be saved from weakness by inner reserves of spiritual strength.

We can never understand or experience salvation in Jesus until we approach it with a sense of need like that we have just described.  We are not speaking now of religious magic or an easy one-way ticket to heaven.  We are talking about the salvation that we most need here and now.  Our world needs it, and you and I need it every day that we live.  It can be ours when and if we make Jesus and His truth the cornerstone of our lives.