So, we’ve all heard it said that “Salvation is a free gift.”
I hate that phrase. It’s dishonest at best and a flat out lie at the worst. I know what people are saying, what they are basically saying is that all you need to do to get to heaven is say a simple prayer, it’s the easiest thing in the world, everyone should do it just in case. Ugh. I’m a gentle person, but that makes me want to smack someone. First; if one says “Jesus I’m so sorry forgive me of all my sins” but they don’t mean it, it’s only fire insurance, do you think Jesus is going to see that as honoring his sacrifice? If we bully and nag and break people into saying a simple prayer just in case do you really think that is honoring God or that God will honor us in turn?
Oh, but someone might say, it’s still a free gift, even if it’s not meant that way. If we wish to follow Jesus, he asks for nothing more. Oh, really? Really? Please, explain to me in the Bible where someone told Jesus “I want to follow you”, and Jesus responded, “I ask nothing of you but your desire to follow me.”
I call bullshit.
The statement that Jesus asks nothing more than that we follow him is semantically sound. Yes, all Jesus wants is our obedience in following him, but that obedience to actually follow him leads to all sorts of things like us having to treat our family like they are dead (Matthew 8), selling all of our possessions to give to the poor (Matthew 10), denying our own selves (Mark 8). Not only does this call to sacrifice for Jesus’ sake come in those three places, but it is reiterated throughout every single gospel. There is a cost. The disciples did not walk beside Jesus down roads lined with flowers and people cheering (okay, they did that once, but Jesus was crucified shortly thereafter so I’d still argue that it’s not entirely a pleasant affair), it was a long hard slog through many trying, sometimes treacherous, and sometimes terrifying affairs. In Jesus’ scant two years of ministry he still somehow managed to change the world. Not because of hearts and roses and come on everybody let’s love one another- there was that, one cannot deny that- but there was also work.
There was sacrifice.
There were tears shed, long and hard prayers, countless miles logged and nights that dwindled into morning.
There was blood shed.
Ask the disciples, that last night in the garden, if they felt that their salvation was something free. As Peter, as the rooster crowed, if he counted any cost. Ask Paul, as he lay suffering blind, if he felt that Jesus’ call was a joyous thing.
It’s not free.
It’s worth the price, but it is not free.
I hear the words “Salvation’s Free Gift” with the same jaded ear that hears a salesperson in the mall asking if I want a free bottle of perfume. Sure, it’s free, after I finish paying out all the contingencies. Now, at this point I’m sure someone is thinking about the fact that we pray the Sinner’s Prayer and are guaranteed entrance into Heaven and all those nasty bits are about the reality of pursuing a holy life here on earth. I could argue the theology that backs that realm of thought, but instead I’ll ask a practical question:
What use is it to be saved, if one does not actually desire to live out that salvation? What use is my own salvation, if I have no desire to live in God’s light and offer up love for my fellow man?
If the only reason I gave my life to Christ was for my own selfishness, I don’t want him to let me into heaven.
And any Christian that would trap someone in selfishness in order to get them to follow God is as foul as the salesperson who claims that the bottle of perfume is free. That’s no way to run a Kingdom, especially in the name of God.