We are desperate for praise, acceptance and encouragement. It is the desire to have these things that fuels the desire for celebrity, no matter the cost to personal life or emotional health.
For this reason, there’s even something about bidding for items on eBay that is deeply satisfying. Whether it’s the adrenaline rush when the final moments approach of trying to get the last bid in, or the achievement felt because a bargain has been bought, it’s exciting! Without a doubt, however, the best thing about it is the e-mail into the inbox that states ‘You have won!’ when the bid is successful. Never has it been so effortless to win!
Similarly, there’s something very pleasing about that moment when the self-checkout stalls in the supermarket and the supervisor comes over to help and presses the button that signals that he or she has given approval. Never has approval been so easy to come by! But why are these tiny triumphs rewarding at all when they are so insignificant? Is it because our sense of self-worth takes such a daily battering from the media which tells us how to dress and where to holiday and which car to drive and how much to weigh that any victory seems valuable?
Last Sunday, the sermon was controversially titled ‘Stop giving your life to Jesus’ and the message was very straightforward: life is full of dreams and disappointment; ambitions and anguish; goals and guilt, but our relationship with Jesus should not conform to this pattern. The Bible passage (John 19 v 19-30) describes the final moment when God himself died on the cross. His sacrifice was motivated entirely by love, it was eternal and ultimate, and there is nothing we can do to add to it or take away from it. Of course, it’s foolish to compare this to the e-mail declaring ‘You have won!’ or the checkout saying it approves. Equally, how can this compare to the acceptance of the general public on a reality TV show or even the approbation of a parent, friend or partner? It should go without saying that the unconditional love and acceptance of the God of the universe should fulfil all our needs.
The Christian journey can occasionally feel like hard work. While it is absolutely right that we should aim for intimacy in our relationship with Jesus, that we should pray and read our Bible, that we should show love to others, when we are weary and burdened and guilt-ridden anyway the demands of a Christian life can seem too much. And then we fall into the trap of forgetting the grace that Jesus offers – the salvation that comes without any demands from us in return. Sometimes we need reminding that when Jesus said “It is finished”, then it was completed once and for all. Our goodness and our holiness, while important in our walk with God and our witness to others, do not determine our salvation. That has already been achieved.
There on the cross, as described in the passage from John, Jesus died for our sins – paid the price for everything we do wrong for the rest of time, took our punishment willingly and intentionally.
That was what was finished as Jesus died. And, while this is the foundation for our faith, sometimes we just need reminding that it is that simple!
For further reading on Jesus’s sacrificial love on the cross try Isaiah 53, Romans 5:5 and 8:38, Ephesians 2:4 – 10.