Last summer, our purebred chocolate lab enlivened our home with a litter of puppies. One of them captured the hearts of many visitors, both in person and online.
Flash had looks and personality—and the ability to soothe the soul of whoever held him. But he remained available until we got a call.
A Facebook viewer had seen photos of one of my friends holding Flash, along with her comments expressing her wish to win the lottery so she could buy him. The man on Facebook offered to buy Flash for her anonymously.
My husband called her to share the news …
Him: “We got a call and Flash has been bought—”
She breaks in: “Aww, that’s great. He’s so awesome!”
Him (with just the right inflection): “For you.”
Then, sputtering and denials. “What?! Who? I can’t take him. No! That’s a $700 dog!” My husband gently explained that he was paid for, that we weren’t being denied payment, and that it wasn’t free to us but to her. Someone else had paid what Flash was worth, not for himself but on her behalf.
Sitting there listening—with utter delight—to the conversation, I couldn’t help but think of my friend’s gift as an illustration of the salvation we receive as a gift from God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9).
In a society that prides itself on a system of hard work producing deserved rewards, grace doesn’t make sense. Something for nothing? Not possible. Exchanges of equal or lesser value are fine, or maybe a small, insignificant gift is alright. But something valuable? No, we must contribute to our gain because only then do we feel that we deserve it. Something for nothing can be a terrible burden on the proud.
Yet we serve a God who “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5). As his followers, we need to understand that we need him. On our own, we don’t have what it takes to be saved from our sins. Only through his grace are we able to welcome salvation with open arms, joyful celebration, thanksgiving, and praise.
It behooves us who belong to that group of grace-receivers to remember that God’s grace isn’t free. It is very costly—it cost Jesus his dignity, his comfort, his power, and his life. The inherent value of God’s grace makes it all the more amazing and worthy of praise.
I can still hear the tone of my friend’s voice as she moved from denial to amazement. “You have got to be kidding! I get FLASH!” We were just as thrilled as she was. As we rejoiced with our friend over her gift, I thought of another passage—the celebrations Jesus describes in his parables of the lost coin, sheep, and son in Luke 15: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).
Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version