When I was in 10th grade, my family moved across the United States from Tennessee to Oregon. In the process of this move, I missed a lot of the first semester of school. I was a reasonably good student, so I more-or-less landed on my feet, with the exception of one class: Algebra II.
Math did not come easily to me (and still doesn’t). I had to really work at it in order to get good grades. No matter how hard I worked that semester, though, I couldn’t overcome the missing instruction. I approached the semester exam with a sinking heart, and I left the classroom knowing that I had failed it. When report card time came, I hardly dared look at my grade for Algebra II–but when I did, I was stunned! Instead of the dreaded F…or maybe, maybe, D that I expected, I saw a C.
I remember standing there in the hallway for a minute, puzzled. How could that have happened? I knew I hadn’t earned a C. I hadn’t had time to establish enough good grades to counteract that awful exam. The next day, when I walked into the math classroom, I happened to be the first student in the room. I approached the teacher and said, “Uhm…you gave me a C.”
His response confirmed that there had been something beyond my work involved. He said, “I believe ‘gave’ is the operative term here.”
I had been given an immense gift; a gift I hadn’t earned. Instead of the failing grade I deserved, I had been given a reprieve; a passing grade. What would I do with it? If I had simply shrugged, accepted it, and then coasted along, that would have been no thanks at all to the teacher. Worse yet, if I had accepted it and then goofed off in class, expecting him to adjust my grade somehow, I would have thrown that gift in his face. I did the only thing a thankful student could do. I worked hard in that class. I paid attention. I did the homework. I did everything I could do to demonstrate that I was aware of his grace and kindness and that I would not waste that precious gift.
Likewise, our salvation has been given to us without our having earned it. The grade we all earn is a big, fat F. As Paul said in Romans 3:22-24, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus…” All of us have stumbled. All of us have failed perfection. There’s not a thing we can do to make up now for all the things that have come before. And God has taken that report card, that clear reflection of our errors, and torn it up and thrown it away. Like my math grade, “gave” is the operative term. He gave us redemption. He extended His grace, not because we earned it, nor because we are amazing individuals, but because He took pity on us.
So what are we going to do with this gift? If we keep on doing all the things we had done before–if there is no change in our behavior–then we deny the awesomeness of the gift. We can’t earn it. We can’t make up for it. There is nothing we can give that would be commensurate.
What we can do though, is work. We can turn around and show God that we appreciate the gift He has given. We can demonstrate that we are not shrugging it off or taking it for granted. We can search out His word. We can learn to do good instead of evil. We can show our thanks by our earnest effort to bring every thought, every deed, into line with God and His ways. Let today be the day that we realize again what a great gift we have been given, and let that realization motivate us to strive for perfection, as Paul encouraged the Corinthians: “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11 NIV 84).
For more helpful information request the free Bible study aid, Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.