Have you ever bought someone a gift that you know that they wouldn’t like? Last Thursday I was at the grocery store on the way to a friend’s house for dinner – my friend is married with four boys, so he suggested I bring the kids a fun drink like orange soda – and at the store, I saw some vegetable drinks like carrot juice and spinach smoothies. For a second, I thought it would be funny to get them these drinks instead of the soda, but I didn’t want to spend the money on a gift I knew they wouldn’t enjoy.
Buying someone a gift that they’d like is the whole point of a gift, but unfortunately, we think that God doesn’t understand this – we think that God’s gifts aren’t for our good.
In Romans 6, Paul talks about a gift God gave through Jesus’ crucifixion:
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:6
Jesus died to give us the gift of freedom from sin.
As I have written previously, sin is rejecting God as king. As king, God has given commands, and so rejecting God as king inevitably leads to rejecting his commands. If we are slaves to our sin, then we are slaves to breaking God’s commands – we can’t obey even if we want to. Following this logic, we can say that Jesus died so that we can submit to God’s commands, commands like these:
- Forgive others and do not take revenge out on those who have hurt you.
- Do not have sex outside of marriage.
- Do not get drunk.
Do any of these make your blood pressure rise? If not, we won’t have to look far to find one that does (Paul writes that we should refrain from crude joking, which sounds laughable in today’s culture). We all struggle with different commands, and I’m confident we all have ones that feel ridiculous and feel as if God is withholding something good from us, but if we trust our feelings and our understanding, we imply that God has given us a bad gift.
When I decided not to get the spinach smoothies, it was because they cost money – no one spends money on a gift they know someone isn’t going to like. On the cross, Jesus endured unfathomable pain. Why would he do so to withhold good from us? Freeing us from our sin and giving us the ability to submit to God’s commands was not a bad gift.
It may sound satisfying for us to get revenge on and embarrass someone who’s mistreated and hurt us deeply, it may sound like fun to sleep with our boyfriend or girlfriend, it may sound liberating to divorce our spouse because our marriage has gone stale, it may sound relaxing to get drunk with our buddies and forget our problems, but if in doing so we break God’s commands, then they aren’t for our good. God didn’t suffer to give us a bad gift.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its way ends in death.” Proverbs 14:12