Negotiating For Grace

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 5

I had an interesting conversation with a woman recently about joining my my company.  As we talked, she appeared to be a perfect match.  We value similar things and have many goals in common.  We agreed that if she were implement the systems and models we provide, she would experience unprecedented growth. The only logical conclusion is to be in business together.  As the conversation moved toward commitment, however, her tone changed.  She began to talk about the things that she would need before we could partner and the considerable expense that she would incur.  Of course, she wanted me to bear the cost.  It was in that moment that I realized the truth.  Yes, she would make a great partner and no, she does not yet understand the benefits and opportunities of this organization.

As I reflected, I recalled Matthew 13:25-26.  Jesus is telling a story about a merchant who sees a pearl of extraordinary value.  He says,

“the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

You see, when we find something of real value – of more value than anything that we have – we will use whatever means necessary to get it.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing my company to the kingdom of heaven.  I’m simply saying that the woman I met with didn’t understand the full benefit.  She, therefore, attempted to enhance her perceived value by negotiating.  How about us?  Do we recognize the full value of Jesus sacrifice, or are we trying to negotiate a better deal?

Consider that question in context of our reading today.  The people of Ephesus saw the benefits of a Christ-following life.  Unfortunately, like us, they haven’t fully given in to the cost.  In a sense, we negotiate with God to take the grace that we need and save our old selves.  For example, Paul confronts them about their sexual immorality and covetousness.  He also adds simpler things like filthiness, foolish talk and crude joking.  All of them are equally relevant to us today.  Don’t we push the boundary of sexual immorality?  Yes.  It is evident in every movie, website and catalog that I see.  What about crude joking and foolish talk?  How do we even define crude joking?  I found an interesting definition on  “Ready wit.”  Interesting.  I don’t know about you, but I can cut down a person faster than most.  It’s a skill that I have finely tuned.  I wield it fiercely, proudly and often.  Trust me, I am not admitting that easily.  At this moment, it brings forth guilt and shame.  God does not discourage my reaction.  In fact, he reinforces it through Paul, calling me a “son of disobedience.”  The action God expects upon my acceptance of his gift is not negotiable.  There is no “mostly” good.  My failure, our failure, to surrender fully and still expect the full benefits of His loving grace is nothing short of trying to negotiate a better deal for our salvation.