Summary: Knowing that Jesus is savior of the world is of no profit unless that knowledge allows the power of God to produce a spiritual transformation, which results in our life manifesting the fruit of the spirit.
A number of people went to the King and said, "Sir, there are many wandering preachers and scholars who indulge in constant dispute, some saying one thing and others saying another. What, Sir, should we believe concerning them?"
The King answered, "Go and find a number of blind men.” ’Very good, sire,’ replied the people, and they did as they were told. When the blind men were assembled the King presented to them an elephant. He said to the blind men, ’Here is an elephant,’ and to one group he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each group that their part was the elephant.
"When the blind men had felt that part of the elephant, which they were given, the King called each of them forward and said: “Well, blind men, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?”
"Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, ’Sire, an elephant is like a pot.’ And the men who had observed the ear replied, ’An elephant is like a winnowing basket.’ Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a granary; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.
"Then they began to quarrel, shouting, ’Yes it is!’ ’No, it is not!’ ’An elephant is not that!’ ’Yes, it’s like that!’ and so on, till they came to blows over the matter.
The King turned to his people and said: “ And so are these preachers and scholars the same as these blind men. Each holds fast to his personal view and is blind to the rest of reality. In their ignorance of the truth, they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is what they believe but never willing to seek out the truth.”
The people replied: ‘How are we to know the truth?’ The King told them: “You listen to these blind men because it is easier to believe the foolishness of a blind man speaking in confidence than it is to labor in seeking the truth. The truth can only be found by those with a pure heart, a disciplined soul, the strength of character to work and the willingness to see the complete picture.”
SALVATION HAS MANY CHARACTERISTICS
There is some truth and wisdom in the parable of the blind men and the elephant. At times, we can find issues in the church much like this parable. The nature of salvation is an old but still interesting issue and one that was a major problem for the church during the 16th century. From one perspective, salvation is simply God loving us so much that He has given us the opportunity to obtain eternal life. From another perspective, salvation is extremely complex because it entails our life here on earth as well as our hope of eternal life with Jesus. Both the simple and the complex perspectives are accurate parts of salvation but it takes both perspectives to see the full picture of salvation. It is kind of like the parable against dogmatism, which tells of blind men trying to determine what an elephant is like. Each man described the elephant as being like the portion he was touching; and thus, none of them really came to know what an elephant is like. We humans are the same way; we are touching various aspects of salvation, and we focus in on our portion of the elephant: at the expense of the real salvation picture.
Salvation belongs to God and it transcends all human attempts to bound it by a specific event or lock it into a single point in time and space. Yet, through our own mental gymnastics, we have fabricated the belief that there exists some unique salvation event or milestone; and, upon arriving at this milestone, the performance of a prescribed ritual results in the issuing of a ticket to heaven. Probably, many of us have devoted much of our lifetime to a peculiar brand of “Salvation Process,” and all of the time we were missing the rest of the story. We were comfortable with our brand of salvation because we were in control of the process; we could assure people that they had just experienced an event, which marks the point in time and space when they were saved. This salvation milestone provides us with the illusion that we are in control of salvation: we have distilled the mystery of salvation down to our own specific “brand”.