Snakes and Ladders
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3:23-24 (NIVUK)
It is perhaps surprising how many board games have ancient origins. The game of snakes and ladders originated in India, some say as early as the second century BC, while others claim it was invented in the thirteenth century AD. Whichever date is correct, both make the game centuries old. Originally, it was associated with traditional Hindu philosophy and the board was covered in symbolic images with the ladders representing virtues and the snakes, vices. The morality lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation through doing good, whereas practicing evil would lead to rebirth to a lower form of life.
In the nineteenth century, the Victorians introduced a modified version of the game into England where the virtues and vices now reflected the prevailing views of morality. Today, the game may help children to develop their counting skills, but any religious or philosophical overtones seem to have been lost.
Many religions and some Christians have a “snakes and ladders” approach to divine approval and salvation. This approach takes the view that we climb the ladder of divine approval and towards some form of salvation by adherence to whatever tenets that religion prescribes. Failure to achieve these tenets leads to sliding down the slippery slope to disapproval and possible loss of salvation. This makes salvation conditional and since it is never clear how strictly the tenets should be adhered to, this also inevitably always makes salvation uncertain.
This approach prescribes what we must do for the deity. On the other hand, Christianity, at its deepest level, is all about what God had done for us. As the opening scripture states, “we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Therefore, there is nothing humanity can do to make itself right with God, for he has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God loves his people because of who he is, for God is love, and because we are his creation, not because of who we are or what we have achieved. Christianity is founded on a grace based relationship between God and humanity through Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Salvation rests not in ecclesiastical or religious institutions, or in theological systems, inner experiences, or the moral transformation of individual believers, but in Christ and him alone.
Father, we thank you that through Jesus you have done for us what we could not do for ourselves. Help us to understand and experience your love, that we in turn may extend that love to others.
Study by Eddie Marsh
Grace Communion, Sheffield
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