I wonder how many of you like shopping? I have to confess that I am a bit of a shopaholic and probably you, like me, enjoy getting a bargain. We save up our loyalty points and our ‘money off’ vouchers and it makes us feel good when we get something for nothing. Sometimes that is fine; something we didn’t have to pay for.
In the Bible there is a story about someone who received a free gift. A blind beggar sits cross – legged on the roadside hoping day after day that people will put money in his beggar’s bowl. One day he hears that a famous healer named Jesus is to pass by. As Jesus comes closer the beggar seizes his chance and he calls out
In spite of protests from the crowd the beggar persistently keeps calling, and then the miracle happens. Jesus stops and calls to the beggar to come forward. Jesus asked
The beggar replies
At once his eyes were opened and Jesus tells him
There are two important things we can learn from this story.
The blind beggar received a gift, and that is just what it was …a gift! There was no way he could have paid for the gift, he was too poor and he had nothing to offer or to bargain with. He wasn’t an influential man with any standing in his community. He hadn’t done any good deeds to earn him favour. No, it was a gift freely given, there were no conditions placed on the gift, no strings attached, nothing to be given in return; all he had to do was receive the gift that had been given.
It is that full free love that God offers to each one of us that is at the heart of the Christian faith. It is unearned love that Jesus won for each of us that is the gift He offers us; the gift that we call Grace. Christianity is the only faith that has at its centre free Grace that cannot be bought or earned. Buddhists spend their lives trying to reach nirvana through prayer and meditation. Moslems through prayer, fasting and doing good deeds that will earn them a place in paradise. That is why suicide bombers are so dangerous for they believe their actions will transport them straight to paradise.
For Christians following Christ’s way of loving, caring, and living it out in daily living is a response to that full Grace, not a condition for receiving it. Neither can we bargain with God; we can’t score points for good deeds done. We can’t promise good behaviour if God will only grant our requests even if we think we deserve it. Nowhere is that made more clear than when we come to worship and receive the bread and wine at communion. We don’t have to understand it all, we just have to be willing to receive the free gift of Grace that God offers us.
From Kings and Bishops to the smallest child we come empty handed. We come with no credits, loyalty points or money-off vouchers. We can only come with open hands and open hearts to receive the wonderful free gift of Grace that Jesus won for us and offers to every one of us, if we are willing to receive it.
(This article was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in November 2016)