“The free gift … the gift … the gift … the free gift … the gift of righteousness….” (Romans 5:15-17)
We all like gifts; gifts for a birthday, for Christmas, or for an anniversary. We like the unexpected gifts from a client or an employer. We appreciate it when someone picks up the bill for lunch or dinner, or a gift card arrives in the mail for some small thing we’ve done.
But have you ever received a nice gift from someone you dislike? When they know how you feel about them?
That’s the scandal of the Cross. While we were helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God (Romans 5:6, 8, 10) the Father “gave His only begotten Son.” It doesn’t make sense. Nobody would come up with this. Who would honor a God who gives to His enemies? Yet, at the core of the Gospel lie these two words — “give” and “gift.”
It makes me uncomfortable.
My sense of justice, much like the Psalmist, wants God to dole out judgment and affliction to the ungodly. My moral indignation wants God to punish evil. That’s how it should play out. The wicked perish; the righteous prosper. Deep down, many of us feel that way.
But God gives. That’s what He does. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Common grace touches everyone. And Christ dies for all humanity.
I know that God is the giver, but somewhere in the back of my mind sits the subtle belief that I’ve earned it. Like a tip left at a restaurant, God’s gift is generous … but earned. I don’t want to think (or believe) that true justice would strike me down. “Crush them, O Lord, but remember my good.”
Yet, the Apostle Paul will not accommodate my self-righteousness. He’ll have nothing to do with my partial-piety. Gift … gift … gift … gift … gift.
The God of all creation and all eternity, unimpressed by my futile and inadequate efforts to clean myself up, loves me far more deeply than I love myself, and gives me what I need most — redemption, justification, salvation, peace, joy, and hope. It does not depend on my spiritual disciplines, my spiritual efforts, my spiritual heritage, or my spiritual community. I trust Him; He gives to me. Period. Shut the door. End of story.
And while I struggle to comprehend such grace, He simply turns on the faucet even more, until I find myself simply awash, standing in grace (Romans 5:2), gifted beyond measure. My enemy has become my benefactor!