7/5/15 Joshua early 30’s
I meet a lot of interesting people in my outreach conversations, and thought it was pretty cool that yesterday, on the 4th of July, I met Joshua, a former Army Ranger, who has recently returned from serving our nation in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uganda. Now he works as a deputy sheriff, and as a result of his experiences says that he has explored various religions and turned to Buddhism. I thanked him for his service, and we went on to talk about the reasons for his beliefs. He didn’t say much about what Buddhism had to offer but did say he felt turned off by the “cheap forgiveness” he saw in Christianity. He felt like anyone could live a selfish life of sin or even commit extreme crimes, like Hitler, and still simply pray for forgiveness at the end of his life and go to heaven.
But in the much the same way that “freedom isn’t free” – people like Joshua have paid dearly to get and maintain our freedom as Americans – forgiveness isn’t free either. God’s free grace doesn’t come simply because we ask for it. It came at a great price, a price that only God could afford to pay, a price that cost God dearly – the death of His own Son on a cross. Salvation is a free gift that we receive by faith in Jesus, but just because it is free to us it was by no means cheap. Jesus is the “Pearl of Great Price” that we must receive by the kind of faith that puts Him first in our lives. As Jesus said in Matthew 13, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” If we find a pearl, but put off “selling everything to buy it” like the kind of people Joshua complained about, then in effect our faith is not in the true Pearl, but a cheap imitation. Let’s honor people like Joshua for their sacrifice for our freedom, and let’s use that freedom to honor Jesus in our lives in such a way that people like Joshua know the true cost of our forgiveness.