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  • Eldon Peterson

Gift of grace comes with no strings attached

All of us enjoy receiving gifts, yet sometimes gifts may be awkward to receive. If I receive a gift that I believe is too costly, I will feel uneasy about accepting it. It is not that I don’t appreciate the thought, it is that their extravagance makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes my discomfort has to do with my feelings of unworthiness but often I am concerned about how I can repay them for their kindness.

I don’t know if you caught the problem that I reveal in my struggle. My felt need to “repay their kindness” with my thanks I was raised to say thank you when you receive a gift, but this need to say thanks can become a form of payment for the gift. Have you ever considered how the expectation of receiving thanks for a gift changes the nature of the gift? If I expect you to thank me for the gift that I give you then it ceases to be a gift and becomes a bribe or payment obligating you to acknowledge my “generosity”. To be a gift it must be given freely without any expectation of reciprocity, even thanks.

Please understand, I do not fault the receiver for saying thank you, but I would fault the giver for requiring it. The purest gift is the one given with the singular desire to bless another and not self. Understanding this will not only make us better gift givers but receivers too. This was illustrated recently upon receiving some tablecloths that I had ordered for our church. The tablecloths were manufactured in China, and when I opened the packages, I was surprised that one included an unexpected gift – a drawing.

Each tablecloth was wrapped around a thin piece of corrugated cardboard, and on one of these, someone had drawn a sketch of a woman in a red dress. The drawing wasn’t exceptional but had required some thought and care. This “gift” got me thinking, why someone to do this? Why would they include this drawing with a package sold to someone halfway around the world?

It would be impossible for me to find an answer to my question, because it would be impossible for me to locate the artist. This, I realized, was a perfect example of a real gift. How? It was given without consideration to who might receive it and it was given without any hope of acknowledgment or reward because it was done anonymously. In fact, it was given with the chance that it would never be seen or appreciated as it was hidden in the packing material. How different from our gifts that are presented and wrapped so there is no doubt as to who to thank.

This provides a good illustration as to how to understand the gift of salvation offered to us through Jesus. In Romans 3, Paul testifies that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (23-24) In a world where there are no free lunches, we may wonder what it means to say that we are “justified by his grace as a gift”?

While every gift costs the giver something, yet for it to be a gift, it cannot come at any cost to the receiver. We remember the cost of grace on Good Friday when Jesus died offering us the gift of grace that must be received. Seeing grace as a gift allows me to understand that all I need to do is receive it - if anything more is required then I have made it a wage rather than a gift.

Many are attracted to the gift of grace, but most cannot accept it. Why? Because the extravagance of the gift makes them uneasy. We don’t want to be indebted to anyone, even God! Nevertheless, unless we are willing to receive the gift of grace we cannot be justified by it and will remain lost in our sins.

Through Christ God has justified us by his grace as a gift. This is different from my cardboard drawing for while I received both at no cost, grace was wrapped with ME in mind. This is important; the gift card on the gift of grace has our name on it. Some will fail to recognize its worth, like my cardboard drawing, but my prayer is that as God offers you the gift of grace, that you will receive it as the extravagant gift that it is!

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