There is a strange doctrine in some Christian circles that the life we live as Christians is an attempt to pay Jesus back for what he has done for us. This is strange for several reasons:
1) How can you pay for a gift? He has given us “the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). When someone gives you a gift, do you take out your wallet and attempt to pay for it? It is entirely inappropriate to try to pay for what God has given us.
2) How can you pay for something priceless? If someone saved you from certain death, and all you had was two dollars, would you try to give it to them to even the score? We had nothing but our sin and wretchedness, he saved us because he just loves us, and we don’t have and never did have any kind of currency to pay for our salvation. We are in no position to pay for it even if we wanted to.
3) God is looking for a voluntary relationship of love with us, not a manipulated relationship where we can never quite do enough to repay him. He set us free completely (Galatians 5:1), in order that we might be free! Free to love him back – or not – as we choose.
It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for us to love God back for what he has done – you can’t help loving someone who loves you that much! (See 1 John 4:19). But he values our freedom – and our voluntary love – so much that he will never manipulate us or put us in a position where we owe him anything.
We really are free, in every way. We are free from the control of sin, we are free from the law, we are free from the control of darkness – and we are even free from any sort of debt to God. And the kind of love for him that kind of freedom stirs up in us goes way beyond anything that a feeling of “owing him” and a compulsion to try and pay him back could ever produce.
Jesus’ death was not the limit of God’s love, and now it’s our turn. It doesn’t say, “He gave us Jesus, and now we have to pay him back”. It says, “He gave us Jesus – what will he not give?” (Romans 8:32).
God wanted Naaman the Aramean to know for sure that his healing was a gift of grace, and so Elisha refused to accept any kind of payment for his healing (2 Kings 5:15-16). Naaman was expecting the Lord to be just like all the other gods he knew about – if you want something from them, you need to give them an offering, and if they do something for you then you had better pay them back.
God is like none of the “gods” of this world; he never owes us, and we never owe him. He just gives abundantly to everyone, and we receive it and respond to him in love:
“He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life
and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25)
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