Lessons of Motherhood: The Little Life I Never Dreamed Of

The words to an old Switchfoot song have been playing through my head lately. “This is your life. Are you who you wanna be? This is your life. Is it everything you dreamed that it would be when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?” I think that song was out when I was in middle school or high school. I always liked it, but the words hit me differently now than they did then. I recently turned twenty-six. To my pessimistic self, that means I’m basically thirty, which means I’m basically old. Okay, I know I’m not really old, but I am older. My youth is passing away.

I remember when I went to college how big the world seemed, how full of endless possibility. I had dreams and visions for my life: who I was going to marry, where I was going to live, what I was going to do. I, of course, was going to do big, important things. By twenty-six I’d probably have gotten my Ph.D., written a best-selling book that changed the world, you know, those kind of things. I wanted to live my life for God, but I assumed that meant I had to live it loudly.

The funny thing about choices though is that they have a way of narrowing our lives and eliminating possibilities. I’ve made my choices. This is my life. I’m certainly not unhappy with it, but it is smaller than I expected. It mostly consists of the four walls of my home where I pass my days with my baby boy. I don’t have a Ph.D. I haven’t written a best-selling book. In fact, I haven’t done anything of much notoriety at all and perhaps I never will.

What I’ve been learning is that it is harder to be faithful in the mundane, to find the glory in the ordinary, and to follow God through the thickets of the everyday. It is more difficult to lay down your life in the small ways when no one is taking any particular notice. It is likely that few will remember me when I die. No one will chronicle my life with a biography, but my hope and prayer is that my son and any future children will be able to say that they learned grace and wisdom and integrity because I was their mother. I hope they will learn to love the word of God because I taught it to them. I pray that they will know Jesus because they knew me. I pray that I can be faithful with my little life and the little lives entrusted to me.

Lessons of Motherhood: The Burden of Love

There is a new love in my life. He’s about two feet tall. He can’t speak yet, but when he looks at me and smiles, I’m quite certain he’s saying “I love you too.” He’s my son and there are moments when I’m rocking him in my arms and he wraps his tiny fingers around mine that I am completely overwhelmed and almost a little scared by how much I love him.

Our society has trivialized love to the point of making it almost meaningless. We have reduced it to nothing more than fleshly instinct, insatiable lust, and a high of warm and fuzzy feelings. Motherhood is teaching me that real love is made of much weightier stuff. To really, truly love someone is a burden.

I have a vision for my son’s life, things I will hope he will learn and do along with things I hope he will not do. There are pitfalls and painful experiences I pray he will avoid, but I am not naive enough to think that all of this will work out as I plan. He will encounter struggles. He will make mistakes and get hurt. He will probably even hurt me. He could reject my faith and in so doing, reject life and salvation.  His life could even end early and so bring tragedy and sorrow to mine. You see, love makes us vulnerable. It can be painful and costly.

At times I’ve wondered why God created mankind knowing all along how they would reject him and the pain it would cause him, how He would have to suffer for them. I can’t pretend to know God’s mind, but I think I understand it a little now. Even though I realize how loving my son could bring me pain, I know I would never want to erase his life to avoid it. Knowing him and loving him is an unqualified good.

I think that’s how God feels about His children. He created us even knowing all that we would do because he delighted in mankind. Burdened by love, He became the most vulnerable thing on earth: a baby. Though we rejected Him, He embraced pain and sorrow to save us. His love for His children cost Him his life.

So when I look at my son, I know I’m in this all the way. Whatever it takes, I pray I can love him as Christ has loved me, embracing the pain as well as the joy, counting the cost as well as the blessing. I pray I will carry my burden well.

“This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” -1 John 3:16

Death Is Not Dignified: What I Wish Brittany Maynard Knew

Like most of us, I’ve read about Brittany Maynard and her choice to end her life due to cancer, sparking an intense debate on the ethics of physician assisted suicide. I do not wish to condemn Miss Maynard for her choice though it does deeply sadden me that she chose to end her life. Anyone in her position deserves only compassion. I cannot imagine being told at 29 that my life was about to come to a slow and painful end. I understand completely the wish to avoid that pain, to have “death with dignity” as they say. However, I do wish to comment on death itself, to provoke thought about what it means that we all must die and how that meaning should affect the manner of our dying.

You see, I do not think it is possible to have death with dignity because death is not dignified. Death is humiliating. It is painful, emotionally if not physically. It forces us to face the truth that we would all rather choose to ignore, that we are finite. We are fleeting. We all know that we must die and yet we all sense there is something wrong with the fact that we must die. Something deep in our souls tells us that it should not be this way and for good reason. It shouldn’t.

A world with death is not the world that God originally intended. Death came as a result of the fall of Adam. Man chose to sin and rebel against God and now, we are all born into that heritage of death. “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).” In a fallen world, death reminds us of our crimes against a holy God and the just punishment for those crimes. There is no dignity in that. Only shame. Only sorrow. This judgment, we none of us can escape.

Except for one man. Only one man, Jesus Christ, did not deserve death and only one man, Jesus Christ, could overcome it. And He did. He died a shameful, completely undignified death. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross and scorned its shame (Hebrews 12:2). Why? So that we who are dying, might die, not necessarily with dignity, but with hope. So that we who must face the reality of death in all its agony, shame, and humiliation might endure it because there is now joy set before us where once there was none.

And so our dying can be transformed from defeat to victory, from misery to beauty. We can now choose to embrace dying, every awful second because doing so can tell a lost and dying world that death does not have to have the final word. This is what I wish Brittany Maynard and all of us knew, that our suffering does not have to be meaningless or worthless. That instead of championing death with dignity, an illusion, we can champion death with hope, an anchor for our souls. For this hope we have: that we who believe in the One who conquered death shall not be conquered by death. That like Him, after the harrowing, undignified suffering of our bodies and souls, we shall see the light of life and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).

“‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).”

The Ordinariness of Extraordinary Love

“Unless it is mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it is a waste of time.”   I came across this quote on facebook recently and it sparked my interest.  In essence, if love is going to be anything, it certainly shouldn’t be ordinary.  If it’s real, true love, it won’t be boring. This certainly seems to reflect the general attitude of the culture currently.  We are told in movies and songs that love should be mad, passionate.  It should transform our lives from ordinary to extraordinary. Basically, love should be like a drug, something to keep us constantly high and something we cannot live without.

There’s a problem with this however.  The problem is that real love isn’t like that.  It isn’t like that at all.  Perhaps that’s why so many people end up disillusioned by what they thought was “true love.”  They find and latch on to something “passionate” and “extraordinary” only to soon find themselves extraordinarily disappointed and hurt when the passion fades.  They discover that what they thought was going to make their life special and meaningful has dropped them back into the harsh reality of their very normal, very ordinary lives.

That’s the heart of the problem.  We want to escape the mundane.  We’re so desperately afraid of it that we look to romantic love to save us from being ordinary, but the truth is that true, extraordinary love is incredibly ordinary.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is passion.  There are deep, heartfelt, thrilling emotions, but they are not the substance.  They are not the foundation. True love is extraordinary not because it lifts us above the ordinary, but because it perseveres with us through the ordinary.  And in life, there is a lot of ordinary.

My grandparents have been married for 61 years.  Their names are Jon and Dorothy.  They grew up and raised their family in the quiet state of Oklahoma.  They are normal people who worked normal jobs and led normal lives.  I can assure you that it has not been 61 years of madness and passion, but 61 years of faithfulness, of quiet commitment and deep companionship.  And when one of them leaves this earth, their love for each other will be celebrated as extraordinary not because they rode an endless roller coaster of thrills and emotions, but because they walked together, hand in hand, side by side through all of life’s highs, lows, and just plain average days.

The most crucial thing that our culture misses is that romantic love is just a picture.  Love that lasts for 61 years of marriage points us to Christ who shows us what love really is.  It does not promise to lift us above the ordinary, but to come dwell with us among it, transforming it into something beautiful and meaningful.  It came down to be born in a manger among manure and animals.  It walked the earth, knowing hunger and fatigue and getting dirt in its sandals.  It carried a heavy, heavy cross and died a humiliating death.  Christ put on human flesh, bore with us in the desperately ordinary things of life and persevered under the heavy load of our sin because of His great love for us. This is the real, extraordinary love for which our hearts long.   It “bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7) and that is why it lasts and satisfies our souls.

Natural Does Not Make Moral

A moral philosophy has pervaded our culture that is (or should be) disturbing.  It comes to us dressed in what appear to be enlightened thought and words, but anyone who thinks even slightly deeply about it can see that it is the exact opposite.  It is in fact, hopelessly primitive. It is the philosophy which equates the natural with the moral.  If something is natural it cannot be prohibited and if we desire something, we must necessarily have a right to it.

This is no more noble than it is novel.  We, living in the post-modern age, tend to turn up our noses at those who came before, scoffing at their backward and binding sense of morality.  Indeed, we believe ourselves to have transcended and transformed what has come before us into something better when in reality, we have most decidedly descended, not into anything new or inspiring, but into the most base manner of thinking. In so doing, we make ourselves to be nothing more than creatures of instinct, indistinguishable from the animals.

There is indeed something very attractive about this line of thought and it is not hard to figure out what it is.  It is easy and it gets us exactly what we want.  Morality dictated by something other than our instincts is almost never convenient and rarely in line with our desires. Doing the right thing is, more often than not, very hard and very costly.

Of course, there is the glaring argument that if it isn’t right, then it would not be so ingrained in our nature to desire it.  We are, after all, “born this way.”  But what does that have to do with morality?  With truth?  Since when is “what is” the same thing as “what ought to be.” I find no necessary link between the two. In fact, I am more deeply convicted that there is much about what is, in the world and within myself, that really ought not to be.   I was born selfish, but does that mean that my selfishness must be condoned, even celebrated as good?  If all that counts is what comes naturally and what I desire, then anything, anything goes.  Let us think past the ends of our noses and realize that if we make natural instinct the sole basis of our morality, we have not merely revised moral law, we have abolished it.

We must be careful to remember that what has set humans apart from all other living beings is our sense of a moral law and our conviction that this law should govern nature and not the other way around. What has made the human experience beautiful and meaningful is our unique ability to perform very difficult and very costly moral acts: to die in the place of another, to remain faithful to our spouse until death, or to tell the truth at great cost.  These are the acts we celebrate and admire and yet they are anything but natural.  In fact, they go completely against nature.  They are, in the sense that they go beyond nature, supernatural. And it is this ability to think beyond and act in spite of our natural desires that makes us uniquely human and makes our humanness meaningful.

 

Easter Musings: Pursued by Grace

Our annual celebration of Easter is drawing near and so I have been thinking on what it is all about:  the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  When I think on what it means for me personally and look back on my life thus far, I am struck by the fact that my story is a story of grace from beginning to end.  To quote the Psalmist, the Lord’s goodness and love have followed me and will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23).

It is one thing to say that we have found God and quite another thing to say that He has found us. Yet when we really consider our Gospel story, we cannot deny that that is really what has happened and that it makes it all the more wonderful and powerful.  I did not pursue God, but He has pursued me.  did not follow after God’s love, but it has followed after me.

The love and grace of God have pursued us from the beginning.  Our frames were not hidden from Him when He made us in the secret place, as we were woven together in our mother’s wombs, His eyes saw our unformed bodies.  Indeed, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14-15).  

He has followed us along every step of our path.  No, he has determined every step of our path with wisdom and love (Proverbs 16:9).  And when our feet have traveled down sinful ways that His holiness forbid Him go, He followed us instead to our rightful place of judgment, condemnation, and punishment.  We find that before we even came to be, His eyes were on us, His grace aimed at us, and His love compelled Him to follow us, nay replace us, on our cross.

This is Easter.  This is why we celebrate, because His grace has pursued us so persistently and His love enveloped our lives so completely that we are completely His.  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).  “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

 

Is It Really Good That God Is Sovereign?

I have not written in a long time.  I have been rather preoccupied mentally and physically with the whirlwind excitement and nausea of the first few months of pregnancy, but I am glad to be back at the keyboard and it is this new life experience that has prompted this post.  Along with all the joy of finding out I was pregnant and telling family and friends, I have at times encountered an old enemy:  fear.  He shows up at my most vulnerable moments.  He questions beliefs I hold that might be tested.  He asks perniciously and repeatedly, “What if…?”  What if I lost the baby? What if the baby has a defect or a disease?  What if God is not really good?  What if God is not really sovereign?  Ultimately, what if it is not really good that God is sovereign?

All of this, along with the book I am reading for my ladies group, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges, has led me to really ponder this subject and what I really think about the sovereignty of God.  I have always believed that God is sovereign, but my attitude towards this truth has often been one more of resignation than of joy and thankfulness because let’s be honest, sometimes we wish He wasn’t.  I have found, however, that the sovereignty of God is not just a fact, it is a glorious fact: one I should treasure, trust, and find ultimate peace and rest in.

I)  The Difficulty of the Sovereignty of God

Most Christians would say they believe in the sovereignty of God, but I think few are really comfortable with all the implications of that.  As Bridges points out, we are perfectly fine with accrediting God when something good happens, when someone is saved, or we get that job we needed or meet our spouse.  However, we have a harder time with the bad stuff, when an unsaved person dies or we don’t get that job or we find ourselves consigned to live of singleness.  In those instances, the really tough ones, we tend to want to let God “off the hook.”  The only problem is that God never asks or even wants to be let “off the hook.”

In the Scriptures, God is adamant and unapologetic about His absolute sovereignty over every person and event, large or small.  God is seen not just allowing or regretfully standing by as bad things happen, but ordaining everything that comes to pass.  “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? (Lamentations 3:37-38).” And yet, Scripture is also adamant that God is not the author of evil or sin, that we and not He are responsible for the evil and suffering wrought in the world.  This is a mystery indeed that I will not attempt to fully understand and which no doubt, causes us to question if it is really good that all in our lives, even the bad and painful, is from the sovereign hand of God.  Can such a God really be trusted?

I think it is helpful to remember that our problem in grasping the goodness of the sovereignty of God is really one of perspective.   We are very much the child and He is very much the Father.  A father is, in many ways, sovereign over his child.  He decides when he will eat and sleep, when he will work and when he will play, where he will go and what he will do.  He does many things which make no sense to the child, which to his understanding, do harm and not good to the him.  The father decrees things the child does not like and concludes that the father must be opposed to him.  The child sees things this way because he does not possess the wisdom, the information, and the perspective that the Father does.  It is only when the child has grown, when he has gained the maturity and mental capability to grasp the bigger picture of the father’s plans that he understands that all the father did which often seemed so questionable, he did in love and for the good of the child.

II)  A Far Worse Alternative

I will not deny that the sovereignty of God is a fearsome thing. It does not promise that only good will pass our way.  It robs us of our false assurance that we are the makers of our own destiny.  It makes us vulnerable to pain we would rather choose to avoid.  Indeed, it makes us ask if it would not in fact be better if this God was not so sovereign. Perhaps it would be better if more should be left up to us or to chance.

Consider this though.  If God is not totally sovereign, if God is not behind my cancer or the loss of my loved one, then what is?  It may only be my enemy or blind, unfeeling chance, neither of which do I wish to be at the mercy of.  I may fancy myself to be the arbiter of my own life (which really would be a terrible thing) and yet we all know that this is not really the case.  We are all susceptible to the whims of people and circumstances.

If then God is not fully sovereign over the bad circumstances in my life, then I may only conclude that He has left me vulnerable to the devil whose only design is my harm.  Either that, or my suffering is nothing more than bad luck which shall render it meaningless and therefore, hopeless. We find then that we should much rather suffer at the hands of a sovereign God who has promised to infuse our suffering with purpose and work it for our ultimate good than at the hands of him whose only purpose could be our destruction or random chaos which has no purpose at all.  The surprising truth is that if my suffering is from God, then my suffering can be trusted.

III)  Pain is Valuable and Evil is Redeemable

We often distrust the sovereignty of God because it may bring us suffering and we dislike suffering because it hurts.  I do not wish to trivialize the pain of suffering, but I must observe that our aversion to pain and our commitment to avoid it at all costs is short-sighted, much like the example of the child earlier.  We dislike pain because well, because it’s painful, but the truth is that pain can be extremely valuable.  It can achieve things for us.  The runner endures the pain of the race because he wishes to obtain the prize.  The mother labors that she might give life to her child.  The father disciplines and brings pain to his child that he may mold the child’s character (Hebrews 12:11).  We endure pain because we believe that the pain is earning us something which will make the pain worthwhile.  This is the promise of scripture.  Our pain is not pointless.  It is not in vain, but rather it is delivered to us intentionally and lovingly from the sovereign hands of God Himself.  Our “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).”  And this hope does not disappoint.  In other words, our pain is worth it.  It is achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs it all.

But what if our suffering should be a result of evil?  What then?  Has God ordained that evil should be done to us?  I cannot explain this fully. God is not the author of evil and yet He is sovereign over it and uses it for His purposes.  Consider the cross.  Has ever a more evil and wicked act been performed than the crucifixion of the guiltless savior at the hands of guilty men?  And yet, God the Father ordained that this evil should come to pass, that His son should be crushed.  And God the Son willingly embraced the pain of this evil.  Why?  Because it purchased for Him something of greater worth:  the glory of God and the salvation of His chosen people.  In this, not only are we redeemed, but so is the evil of the Cross.  That which was wicked was made good.  That which was hopeless became the fountain of all hope and the greatest act of hate became the greatest act of love.  In this the example of our Savior, we see that our pain, though real, is valuable and the evil of this world, though mysteriously ordained by God, will also assuredly be redeemed by God.  What man has meant for evil, God has meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

IV)  The Real Answer:  Sovereign Love

I must add that though I have been dealing with fears and these difficult questions abstractly, I am not now in a position of suffering or pain.  I am currently dealing with the question of God’s sovereignty mostly intellectually.  I recognize then that I am in no position to preach to the one in enduring real trial and pain.  Indeed, I am sure that these abstract musings would be of little help at all to the one in the midst of a storm. In a storm, we can’t see beyond our reach and in the fire, we can’t think beyond our pain.  We don’t need abstract ideas.  We need a person and Jesus is the person we need.

The real, heart answer to this question then is that it is good that God is sovereign because He loves us and we can hope in this love because it is sovereign love.  If He be sovereign, but not loving, He can only be feared. If He be loving, but not sovereign, He can never be fully trusted.  The cross tells us that He is both.  His love is not weak impotent and His sovereignty is not detached and impersonal.  His sovereignty is love and His love is sovereign.  His words for the one who suffers are these:

“But now, this is what the LORD says–he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:1-3).”

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).” 

God does not promise that He will not give us pain.  In fact, He promises just the opposite.  What He does promise though is that He will be with us.  This is the answer to fear and doubt.   He, not just a God or even the God, but our God will be with us. God became man that He might stand in our place in our greatest trial: the judgment of our sin.  His sovereign love directed Him to endure such affliction from sinful men in order that He might make those sinful men His own, in order that He might be their God with them in every trial and every storm.  We can trust His sovereignty, treasure His sovereignty and rest in His sovereignty because His sovereignty has done this for us.  We are His people and He is our God.

Good News: God Is Intolerant

There’s a rumor that has been floating around for quite some time that God is Love.  He hates nothing.  He offends no one.  He makes no accusations.  All he really does is pat our heads and tell us how wonderful we are and how much he wants us to do whatever makes us happy. Essentially, he is a tolerant God.

I am not sure what this God is based on, but it is not the God of the Bible.  It is a God of our own making, a God made in our mage.  I’ll admit he is appealing on some level. No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one finds it pleasant to have their sin exposed.  This God is certainly easy to get along with.  Yet I would suggest that this God of tolerance is not a God of love.  My last post was about the fact that acceptance is not the same thing as love.  This post will suggest that intolerance is not the same thing as hate.

The God of the Bible is a God of love, but that does not mean that He hates nothing.  In fact, I would argue that it is because He loves that He hates certain things, namely, sin.  The message of the Bible is actually that God’s intolerance and His love flow from the same place and work to achieve the same goals:  the glory of His name and the redemption of His people.

Suppose for a minute that God really was a tolerant God.  He might notice that we all sin, that this sin leads to our destruction and death, but he would do nothing about it.  Perhaps, he would see that what we think makes us happy really only makes us more miserable, but he would not lift a finger to stop us or say a word against us because he would not want to offend.  He would simply sit back and watch us as we ruined our lives, but oh he would celebrate with us that we were able to live freely unencumbered by old-fashioned rules and out-dated standards of morality.  This God might make a good pal, but not a very good Savior and above all, he would not be a God of love.  His tolerance would be convenient for him, but come at a very high price to ourselves.

Fortunately, this is not the Gospel.  God did not choose the path of convenience, but of sacrificial love. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God loves us so deeply and hates our sin so passionately that He absolutely refused to tolerate it.  He would not leave us in our sin and knowing that we were powerless to keep His law and meet His standards, He took our penalty.  His love for us has cost Him greatly.

The Cross is as much an expression of God’s wrath as it is of God’s love. It was as much an offensive action as a defensive one.  Christ died to save us, but He also died to defeat sin, to purge His creation and His people of the sinfulness that He abhors.  On the cross, His love and His hate coalesced to purchase our salvation.  So we find that contrary to popular belief and political correctness, we should rejoice to find that we have an intolerant God. For just as a good and loving Father refuses to stand back and accept the harmful and destructive habits of his child, so our Father has refused to accept and leave us in our sin.  Our God is intolerant and this is very, very good news for both His intolerance and His love have compelled Him to save us from our sins.

Acceptance Does Not Equal Love

This generation is obsessed with “tolerance” and “acceptance.”  We just want everyone to get along.  Love.  Not Hate.  It’s that simple right?  If you love someone, you’ll accept them.  Well, I’m calling it.  This is a total bunch of horse manure and I think it’s about time we at least all talk straight with each other.

The idea that we can all just get along and always “accept” each other is just simply not realistic.  People are fine with acceptance until they come across something that they find…well….unacceptable.  Then all their fine notions about total tolerance are thrown out the window.  This happens on both sides of the issues, usually liberal and conservative, but usually one side gets the label of being “hateful” and “intolerant.”  What makes it all ridiculous is that the other side is just as intolerant.  They find it unacceptable that the other side finds their point of view unacceptable. Anybody else find that totally absurd?

So let’s not kid ourselves here. Let’s at the very least be straight with each other.  We all find certain things unacceptable.  None of us can really tolerate everything.  To tolerate and accept everything would be to have conviction about nothing.  It might look “enlightened” and “loving,” but it is really fatuous and useless.

Moreover, let us ask if we really believe that total acceptance of a person equals loving them?  If by total acceptance, we mean choosing to love them in spite of all their sin, then yes, I suppose it does.  But if by total acceptance, we mean choosing to love them by embracing and turning a blind eye to their sin, then no.  That is not love.  In fact, it is the opposite of love.  Sin is not a laughing matter. It kills.  It ruins people even if they don’t see it.  If I believe with my whole heart that someone’s sin is deceiving them into death, if I love them, I would not tolerate their sin.  I would not accept it.  I would want to expose it, not to judge them or condemn them, but to save them and show them the truth.  To simply accept and ignore it would be not an act of love, but an act of hate.

Love that accepts all is not love.  It is a cheap knockoff of the real thing. It is selfishness and convenience masquerading as something noble.  To truly love someone enough not to accept all their sin is hard and sometimes, it gives offense. It costs something. But it is real and powerful.  Most important, it is the companion of Truth for whoever loves and tolerates and accepts, but does not reveal Truth, does not love at all.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).

The High Cost of Free Grace

The title of this post may seem puzzling.  How can grace be both free and costly?  That is simply contradictory.  Yet I think that this is a paradox that we see in Scripture and which I have been trying to work out in my head.  We receive salvation through the free gift of God’s grace and yet the fact that it is free does not mean that it will cost us nothing to receive it.  How can this be?

That we receive salvation as a free gift is undoubtedly true.  Scripture tells us, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  This is a pivotal point of the Gospel.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and the faith which saves us?  It is a gift.  A gift, by definition, is something you cannot earn or attempt to pay for.  For then it would be cease to be a gift.  This point Paul emphasizes so that we can all understand that none of us can boast.  If we want salvation, we must receive it humbly, giving all the glory to God.

In this sense then, grace is free.  With all my works, I could never have been good enough to earn it.  With all my money, I could never have afforded it.  And the real truth is that with all my sin and wickedness, I did not even want it.  Yet here I stand in the grace of God. It is free and it has freed me.

However, salvation is not “free” in the same way that the samples at Sam’s Club are free.  That is free in the sense of instant gratification with no cost and no lifestyle implications.  The offer of the Gospel is very different.  Mercy is weightier stuff.  It lays claim to our lives.  Christ did not die merely to dole out forgiveness to passersby, but to purchase souls.  If we want His grace, we must be ready to give our devotion.  If we want His life, we must be prepared to surrender ours.

In a strange sense, the grace of God would be less costly if it was less free.  If God merely wanted our money, our good deeds, our lip service, I think many would be more willing to take His offer because we would still be able to retain the one thing we all cringe at relinquishing: the thrones of our hearts.  For if the Gospel is really free, if God has really in His sovereignty, reached down and saved me, changing the trajectory of my life from eternal wrath to eternal life, then there is a very great cost. I cannot be the person I was because God has changed my very identity from child of wrath to child of God.  I cannot live as Lord of my own life because because Christ has bought and paid for the right to be not just my Savior, but my Lord.  Yes, grace is free, but its implications are weighty.  I am not my own.  For grace has made me His.

This should cause us to consider the offer of the Gospel with due sobriety.  We should marvel at the glory of free grace and yet consider the cost of receiving it.  We must hear the warning of Christ Himself: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27). These are sobering words indeed.  They tell us that being a disciple of Christ may cost us everything, our dearest relationships or even our very lives.

Indeed, many who have chosen to follow Christ, have been led by Christ down paths of suffering that they would never have chosen for themselves. This is the cost of free grace: complete submission and avowal that we will follow Christ wherever He may lead.  Yet, the cost does not come without promise and the promise is very, very good.  The promise is that no matter where Christ may take us or what He may ask us to do, it will be worth it.

Paul understood the promise.  He tells us that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  And in Philippians, he vows to embrace the cost and sufferings of belonging to Christ, even calling it rubbish, all that He might gain Christ and be found in Him (Philippians 3:8-9).  Paul understood that there was a cost, but that whatever the cost might be, it was simply incomparable to the prize.

Thus we see that grace is free and yet costly, that the cost is both great and yet so transient in the grand scheme of things as to ultimately be counted as nothing.  Let us then consider with sobriety the weighty offer of the Gospel and the far-reaching implications it has for our lives, but let us also consider that if a cost must be paid, something must be given in return.  Those who do count the cost and consider the worth of the prize will see that it is so much more than worth it.  For ultimately, following Christ must necessarily lead us to Christ and Christ Himself is the source of life and salvation and the treasure who is worth more than any price.