The second stream of thought concerning the being a Christ-follower flows through the language of falling in love. Ideas like "personal relationship" "new birth" "household of God" and, especially, "Bride of Christ" form the framework for this view of God's salvation.
Becoming a believer is like falling in love: mysterious, deeply personal and varies from one to the other. Christ-followers seek to share this transforming relationship with pre-Christians through loving, genuine relationships. Accepting people where they are and prayerfully looking for opportunities to interject the love and message of Jesus into their lives. The process side of conversion, the pre-decision preparations steps are the focus.
Focused on acceptance and relationships, this current is wide. It is also shallow, sometimes trading presence for presentation. There is a good life lived, the genuine acceptance and love of the person found in Jesus is shared, but often no moment of acceptance of this relationship is offered.
The Bible's ultimate picture for God's relationship to those experiencing his salvation is pictured as a marriage, with Jesus as the Groom and the community of faith as the Bride. This image of what it means to experience salvation through Jesus balances the needed pieces of assurance and acceptance, of variable time to convert and "today's the day of Salvation," and of valuing the person and calling to commitment.
One day I woke up a single man. I got dressed up, went to a church and met Lisa at an altar. We publically made promises to each other. Then the pastor pronounced us "Man and Wife." I had entered that day, that building, that room, that moment in time a single man. I left that moment, that room, that building and that day a married man.
We dated a long time before that day. We shared life and in the process got to know each other. We discovered a mysterious, powerful love one day. We could no longer think of life without the other. I proposed. She said, "Yes." We planned the day. We got blood tests. We participated in a series of premarital counseling sessions. ALL before the moment of marriage.
But, we were not married until we had that moment of commitment.
That was 12 years ago next May. Since we have learned what marriage really is.
So when I think of salvation, I think of my marriage to Lisa. When I think of sharing it with others, I think of myself setting up a date between two friend. In this case it is some man or woman I know and God. As the relationship grows, I encourage it, support them both as they explore a new kind of life together. But the mysterious, powerful loving relationship is out of my control. The man or woman will not be a Christ-follower until that moment of commitment begins a lifelong journey. Then as John the Baptist said, I rejoice at the Groom's marriage to his new bride.