I’m not sure I can call myself a theologian but I do hold a Masters of Divinity. What a sobering degree- I cannot master the Divine.

Today, however, a friend how to explain salvation to her eight year old. I immediately admired the astute question of her deep, little person, but couldn’t respond right away. After thinking, I’ll suggest, very inexhaustibly, the following.

In seminary, I wrote salvation can be understood in two ways: as atonement (to set things right again) and reconciliation (brokenness restored to wholeness). These are great words but still unhelpful to a well-read, but still-in-the-concrete-operational-stage, eight year old.

So in concrete and logical terms, salvation is…like super glue

Salvation happens right now and is something that will happen in the future.

When salvation happens right now, its like something broken, gets put back together. If a tea cup gets dropped and cracks into three pieces, it needs to be “saved”. A broken tea cup will not hold any liquids; it cannot be what it is meant to be.Super glue can save the tea cup. When super glue brings the broken pieces back together, the toy will work as its supposed to work.

Right now, salvation means help in hard times. Salvation means being saved from a disaster- big or small. Salvation is when broken things get put back together.

It’s not just toys that break. Relationships can break too. If we get mad at our brother or sister or mom or dad, it’s kind of like our relationship is broken. We don’t talk to them like we normally do, or we do mean things instead of loving things. Salvation happens when the relationship is glued back together with forgiveness and a love that goes deeper than disappointment, anger, or frustration. Forgiveness lets the broken part of the relationship go away so the fun and loving parts come back.

If you’re grumpy and you get over it, salvation has happened in your heart. If you are mean to your sister but then say you’re sorry, salvation has happened.

Jesus said salvation came to Zacchaeus in Luke 19 when Zacchaeus decided to stop taking money unfairly and return what he had stolen to the people. He was saved because he accepted Jesus’ love and justice as the better way to live. Salvation for Zacchaeus meant he could be who he was really supposed to be.

Salvation is something that will happen in the future.

God is always working for good; God is always light in dark places. God loves the whole world and all the people and doesn’t like when people break the world or each other with anger, abuse, fighting, sickness, pain, or waste. God’s future salvation will happen when all the broken parts of the world are fixed and the world can be the place God made it to be- a place of healing, hope, health, safety, sharing, peace, fairness, freedom, love, fun, joy, and beauty.

Until God’s final salvation comes, we are supposed to make salvation happen here, right now, whenever we can. We can bring salvation to a friend who feels left out by inviting them to come play. We make salvation happen when we clean up trash around the park so it looks prettier for everyone who comes to play. We make salvation happen when we admit we are wrong, work to be different next time, and make things right with the sister/brother/mom/dad/friend with whom we fought.

Jesus saved with love instead of hate…we can too.

When I asked my own elementary school kids, after school just now, if they knew what salvation meant, they said, they had heard the word but didn’t know what it meant.

I said, it’s close to the word “saved”, “What do you think it means to be saved?”

It’s when you’re about to be hit with a dodge ball and then someone jumps in front of you and catches the ball.“- Eli

Like when a kidnapper is going to take you but someone stops them and gets you back.“- Andi.

Indeed- salvation is like getting to stay in the game instead of being knocked out.

Or salvation is like being ripped out of the arms of someone who means to take you from the life you’re supposed to live, and being held by arms that will keep you safe and take you home.

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