June 13-19

How Cheap is Grace?

Preface: The last week of Jesus’ earthly life unfolded in Jerusalem. What tumultuous events marked that week: the triumphal entry; Jesus weeping over the indifferent city; the cleansing of the temple; the scheming and the plotting against Him; the pathos of the Last Supper; the agony of Gethsemane; the mockery of a trial; the Crucifixion; and, finally, the Resurrection. Never before and never since has any city witnessed so critical a progression of history, a progression that brought the cosmic conflict between good and evil to its climax, even though no one but Jesus understood the significance of what was unfolding. Jesus had passed through Jerusalem several times in His life. However, it is the closing week of His ministry in Jerusalem that occupies the special attention of the Gospel writers.

I was sitting in the academy chapel. It was the final night of Week of Prayer. I was observing some of my fellow students getting up, repenting, and asking forgiveness for things they had done.

I remember the anger: I felt I had been cheated. How could they live such a bad lifestyle all these years, then ask for forgiveness and suddenly be accepted? I had worked too hard, avoiding temptation, trying my utmost to be good and to gain the respect of the faculty.
It was like a game. I had done all the work, and they had gotten lucky and won equal rights to the “spoils.”

What a cheap shot! Just watch. In a few weeks they would be right back enjoying all the “pleasures of sin,” only to repent next year at yet another Week of Prayer. They had the best of both worlds, I thought.

I reasoned that maybe I too could enjoy the “pleasures of sin for a season” and ask for forgiveness at the right moment and be saved. I never really did, because I would have been too embarrassed, but the thought crossed my mind many times.

However, my Christian experience was not all “peaches and cream.” I couldn't figure out why I was so angry with repentant sinners. I remember trying to force myself not to be angry. It didn't work. I finally came to the realization that it was impossible for me alone to remove my anger, and so, humbled, I went to my knees and asked God to do it.

I have a friend who, when asked, “How are you?” responds, “Compared to what?” It surely does make a difference to what you compare yourself. When I compared myself to many of my fellow students, I thought I looked quite good; but when I compared myself to Jesus Christ, I looked really bad.

Many centuries, ago when Christ walked and talked on the earth, He was the most critical of the inward sins of pride and jealousy. For years I could never see why. Then one day it became clear. The inward sins are the easiest to hide, the hardest to change, and, in the long term, the most destructive.
I slowly began to understand the grace of God. Something that I cannot control will always be in my life—whether it is visible to others or not. Only by beholding Him will the depths of my soul ever be changed, and then I can’t even take the credit for it.