[I had a post last week entitled: Can you accept a gift? The way of salvation is easy, yet also hard. Continued thoughts in this post.]
It has been said that listening is the forgotten side of a conversation. If no one really listens, has a true conversation even taken place? Or was it just 2 people talking at each other? Unfortunately, the later can end up the case too often. Likewise, receiving can be the forgotten side of giving.
I came across this quote, from a secular novel apparently, but I appreciated the point: “Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving….Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.” – Alexander McCall Smith
We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Grace – the undeserved merit or favor of God. But we so easily default to what we have done rather than what Christ has done for us. Ya know that old evangelism question – if you were standing at the gate of heaven and Peter asks why you should be let in the pearly gates. I asked that to someone about a year ago, and got a typical response – they shared their virtues with me. I casually pointed out that their answer said nothing about Jesus. Isn’t Jesus supposed to have at least something to do with it? They looked at me dumbfounded, and realized the profound deficiency of their answer.
Which comes back around to the point – Can we realize that no matter how much good we do, we still fall short? Can we admit our need of a Savior? We can’t save ourselves. I think there is something about human nature that makes it hard to accept a gift – especially or perhaps primarily one that is undeserved. We prefer to deserve it or earn it.
I think we are better at accepting a gift that we think we deserve. For example, someone gives you a gift of appreciation as thanks for something you did for them. You deserved or earned the gift. But what about an out-of-the-blue “undeserved” gift? This can make us uncomfortable, can’t it?
It can be hard for people to realize that Christ died for them because they are powerless, ungodly, and sinful. (Romans 5.) God did not owe us salvation because we deserved it. God didn’t send his Son to die because we are so virtuous.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
When I was an atheist a young woman asked me, “If there were a heaven, why do you think you’d get in?”
I answered, “Because I’m a nice guy!”
And she said, “A lot of nice guys are going to hell, Tim.”
It’s all about Jesus, isn’t it Laura.
Laura Droege said:
The name Alexander McCall Smith caught my eye. I’ve read a bunch of his novels–they’re delightful and funny, in my opinion–and he has interesting, and surprisingly gracious, views. I say surprising because he doesn’t appear to be a Christian. Very intelligent man. I can hear one of his characters saying that quote.
Anyway, I think your point is well made. No one likes being the undeserving gift receiver; it can humiliate our pride, the pride that says, “I am worthy!” Especially for very ultra-capable people–the achievers and hard workers of this world–this realization is unwelcome. For me, God had to rip me of my biggest sources of pride (my “perfect” grades) that had become the source of my identity in order to humble me. It hurt.
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