One of my favorite actors/people in the world is Sir Patrick Stewart. I know him best for his portrayal of Jean Luc Picard, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, throughout his career as an accomplished actor, Sir Patrick Stewart has become a champion of women’s rights in domestic violence and soldiers struggling with PTSD, in part because of his childhood with an alcoholic, abusive father struggling with PTSD and his mother who suffered abuse at his hand. Because of his tremendous acting ability, as well as his social activism, Patrick Stewart was knighted and became Sir Patrick Stewart.
I find ‘honorifics’, or titles signifying high standing or status, really kind of cool. Part of it is because they serve as a mini introduction. When you introduce yourself as “Dr. So and so”, I know that you have spent a lot of time studying. When I introduce myself as “Chaplain” or “Reverend” Feltz, it tells the person I’m meeting a little bit about me, and hopefully my character.
In Ancient Greece, there was one really cool honorific: ‘soter’. It meant “savior”. Not just anyone could be a ‘soter’. It was a title reserved for the most powerful, borderline mythical instances in life. Not even emperors would be introduced as ‘Caesar Soter’. You needed to be known as someone who fought injustice or saved people from widespread oppression.
In the book of Isaiah, the “anointed one” (another honorific and title), is said to come with “good news to the poor, to bind up or heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to captives, and freedom for prisoners”. The anointed one was going to come as a ‘soter’.
So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Luke’s Gospel begins with this declaration:
“For unto is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”
We love to call Jesus our ‘Savior’ in the church. It, along with ‘The Lord’ are probably the two most common titles I hear in reference to Jesus. Apart from the fact that both of those now sound super churchy to me, I think we can lose something critical to the title. There’s an implication that we can often acknowledge right away, but if you’re like me, you lose sight of this fact over time:
To declare someone as ‘Savior’ or ‘soter’ means that you admit you needed saving.
One of my biggest fears in my faith is spending so much time “being saved” that I forget that I needed to be saved in the first place. Admitting we need “saved” requires humility, and that’s a humility that the church desperately needs to keep.
Full disclosure, one of my biggest pet peeves in the church is the smugness and pretentiousness I see from time to time. Too many Christians will huddle up in a bubble, speaking about the world as if it were either evil and going to contaminate them, or that the world is somehow beneath them.
Too many Christians, myself included, forget that we were and still are very broken.
I admit that it’s easy to get comfortable “being saved”. We’re told about forgiveness and grace, about God’s love and mercy, all of which is true. But if we’re not careful, after a while, the necessity of a savior becomes a distant memory.
I pray I would remember, and never truly forget, that while I have a loving God, I also was and am desperately broken, in need of a savior.
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I love y’all and there’s nothing you can do about it…