When I first started getting involved in my Church and first started becoming a Christian, one of the things that I constantly struggled with is understanding what I had done to deserve the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. Other people, ok, I can see that they have been faithfully attending church for years and years, that they do lots of good things for people and that maybe they have earned that love. But me? I wasn't even sure I believed, hadn't read much of the Bible and certainly hadn't been in the church for years and years. In fact, although I was there, at some levels I was affirmatively hostile - I kept waiting for the sermon that would drive me away, for someone to say that I wasn't good enough, for people to discover me, for an excuse to leave.
I did, though, want to earn that love - I wanted to be deserving, like other people. I thought maybe if I do more good deeds, maybe if I attend more often, maybe if I join a Bible study group, maybe if I really, really, really, try, then I can feel like I have done what I need to do and can stop feeling like I am not worthy of that love.
Of course, it never worked. The difference, though, is that now I understand that no amount of work or time in worship and praise could ever be enough. It isn't earned - it is given. We just have to accept it. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
This morning I really thought about it in the sense of my love for my children. While there are an infinite number of things that they do that please me, I couldn't make a list that ever would explain in any real way why I love them. I just do. Of course I would give my life for theirs. So, too, is God's love for us.
I can't say this, though, without adding - the fact that God's eternal love is freely given is not a free pass on everything else. Just like the fact that I love my own children does not mean that they can just do whatever they want. The gift of salvation and eternal life doesn't mean that we can live our lives without regard to others and without focusing on living the life that He wants us to live. As the quote above continues: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 While those "good works" do not earn us the gift we have been given, God has prepared them in advance for us to do. We have the easy part, we just have to look for them and then do them.