The Cost of God
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
When in medical school, I went on a medical mission trip to Venezuela where we set up shop in a local park. I am sure the group did some good, but I was pretty useless. I had a few antibiotics, but mostly, I spent my days handing out children’s vitamins. Though the locals were eager to see us, I realized what our efforts were worth when I later saw the kids using our vitamins as projectiles to throw at each other. That which we had freely given, had little worth to them.
This is not an uncommon phenomenon. We often do not care about something for which we pay nothing. If it is free, it is not valuable. Anything worthwhile is expensive.
As Christians, we often speak of salvation as a free gift. Christ took on the weight of our sin, restoring us to God, at no cost to us, so forgiveness is free in the sense that we do not earn it. If we want to know God, we must accept this gift.
As salvation is free, I do not value it as I should. I often treat it as those kids treated my vitamins. I did not earn this, so I do not have to do anything. This costs me nothing and so, it requires no change of me. I may now do as I please. I treat my relationship with God as a cheap trinket.
Paul, in today’s passage, insisted paradoxically, that though we do not earn our relationship with God, it costs us everything. He said that as Christ died for us, we are to give our entire lives to him and for him. We are not saved so we may pursue ourselves. We are saved so that we may follow God. The kingdom of God is no cheap trinket. It is a great treasure for which we should be willing to give all (Matthew 13:44).
Instead, I have this attitude that as I am forgiven, I am free to pursue me. I should just follow my heart! The problem though, is that the entire reason I needed saving in the first place is that my desires led me to disaster. Though I think I am free when I follow myself, the quickest route to slavery is to do whatever my heart desires. If I truly desire to know life, joy and freedom, then following my heart is disastrous. My heart is a mess.
It is not that my heart is entirely wrong, it is just that it makes a terrible god. The measure of whether a thing is right or wrong is not whether or not I want it. Frankly, I want some very destructive things and when I pursue my desires, I pursue disaster.
But if I do not follow my heart, I will give up all the things I want in this life. I will not be true to myself! In sacrificing my own pursuits, I feel that life will become drudgery. I used to enjoy life, but now I am a Christian. I thought this way once, but when I sowed the seeds of my own unmaking, I realized the folly of following me. My heart makes a terrible god and I follow it to my own peril.
I do not do it perfectly, but in abandoning self and following God, I have found infinitely more joy and peace than I ever found in pursuing self. When I give the desires of my heart over to God, He refines them and returns them to me so that I may pursue the me I was meant to be.
What does this look like? Beer. I like beer, but I am an addict. If I insisted on following my heart, I could easily convince myself that I would be missing out on life if I did not indulge my desire to have a beer now and then. For many people, this if fine. For an addict though, this kind of thinking is disastrous. In giving up beer to God, I have found more joy and pleasure in my sobriety than I ever would have in a glass (or 10 glasses) of beer.
Though I may revolt at the idea of giving up my heart’s desires, it is in the pursuit of my desires that I became enslaved. It is from myself that I needed to be saved. As Christ has paid the price to set me free, I now belong to him. I should act accordingly. I am not my own.