God’s Grace &
The Simplicity of Giving & Receiving
Warren E. Berkley
The worthy affirmation that we are saved by God’s grace has never really been a struggle for me to grasp, or a tangled theological puzzle to assemble. This may be because the preachers of my youth – almost without exception – frequently used the word “gift” in their references to God’s grace. Becoming a Christian or obeying the gospel was consistently pictured in terms of our “receiving a gift.”
I understood that well, since I loved birthdays! There would always be some sort of annual celebration, even if just cake and ice cream with family and friends. For me, the highlight of the event was never the cake or ice cream. In the years of my immaturity (which I held to way too long), it wasn’t so much that family and friends attended these events. I WANTED THE GIFTS!
There was never any thought that these gifts were wages I had earned, or awards I deserved. I remembered what “my preachers and teachers” taught me. It was grace that handed me the red wagon, the bicycle or battery operated robot. All I did was receive it, open it and use it. And I was expected to care for it. (Remember, I’m talking about the age range of 8-12. I didn’t use the phrase, “unmerited favor.” I didn’t know who John Calvin was. I didn’t visit the library to devour the systematic theology volumes). All I knew was – I was given something I hadn’t worked for and did not deserve. But I had to reach out and receive it, use it and keep it. I believed the givers were offering me something of value. That belief in their goodness and integrity prompted me to reach out, take the gift, say thank you, open the package, use it and take care of it. Through the whole process, it always remained a gift.
Fifteen years later, I discovered people didn’t understand God’s grace. Today – at 70 something years – I continue to see misunderstanding, passionate debates of the fine points, slants, agendas, perspectives and claims that run counter, not only to Scripture but to good, reasonable thinking.
It is this simple: God is the giver (Eph. 2:8), we are receivers (2 Cor. 6:1). To receive a gift is active. The gift is conditioned on the receiver taking initiative and responding to the offer, to receive what could not be possessed in any other way. Then use that gift to keep heart and life grounded in and responsive to the grace of God, “that brings salvation … to all men …,” (Titus 2:11).