There’s been a lot of media attention recently about “quid pro quo”. I’ve heard the phrase, and had a general sense of its meaning, but figured only attorneys, magistrates and judges use it in conversation. Or maybe the Pope does, you know, another of those folks who know some Latin.
Quid pro quo means “this for that”, in other words, a favor expected in return for your doing something. If I do something for you, I can rightfully expect that you’ll return the favor for me.
Lately, the front page news has been about President Trump’s impeachment hearings. He is accused of asking Ukraine’s President Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s membership on the board of Burisma Holdings, a large natural gas company (I’ll leave that one alone). What supposedly went down was that President Trump would release military weapons to Ukraine if President Zelensky would investigate Joe Biden’s son. That appears to be quid pro quo; I’ll do this for you, if you’ll do that for me.
I wish President Trump hadn’t done that. He is the most powerful person on Earth (if you don’t think so, just ask him) and to wield that influence to manipulate the will of another nation’s president just doesn’t seem kosher. I know we’re talking politics here, which at the international level often challenges the integrity of our leaders, but, come on. It seems like our nation’s chief executive should have some boundaries about how far he’ll wander in soliciting the favor of another.
I find it challenging anymore to believe anything from the national media that I hear or read. I’ve become a skeptic. It’s not wise to accept as truth what is espoused on either Fox or CNN, or even TBN. Everyone has a spin; everyone is up to something. If they can figure out what you want to hear, the networks will paint the truth to whatever color, red or blue, will keep their followers following. They’ll tell you what you want to hear, if you’ll listen to what their commercials have to sell. Another quid pro quo, right?
You know, Christmas is like that too. Not the Christmas of the Bible, but the Christmas of the internet and malls. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the lesser known Green Monday, Super Saturday and Turquoise Thursday (I made that last one up) entice the loosening of our purse strings to maximize the vendors’ sales and profits.
Do you know why Black Friday is called Black Friday? The annual escalation of sales on the day after Thanksgiving is when retail businesses hope to get their financial spreadsheet into the black ink, and out of the red. Big sales are offered to get shoppers shopping, so the accountants can finally account for a profit beyond the red/black tipping point.
To be honest, even Good Ol’ Saint Nick operates in the quid pro quo spirit. He really does. As the expression goes, with pun intended, you get what you ask for. He spends most of the year making a list and checking it twice, trying to find out who’s naughty and nice. So, when Santa Claus is coming to town, he already knows who gets coal, and who gets the really good stuff, delivered free by his reindeer, or Amazon Prime.
Aren’t you glad God isn’t like Santa Claus? A lot of people think He is, but He’s not. For those who aren’t familiar with what the Bible says, their image of God often is of a heavenly accountant, sitting at a big desk, with a visor on and reading glasses tilted down, keeping track of debits and credits on a giant ledger. We assume our eternal credit score is based on the good or bad things we’ve done in our lives. If we’re in the black, having more good credits than bad debits, we will be okay when the call is made up yonder. Wrong. That’s not how it works.
Are you sitting down? This may be hard to swallow, but it’s the absolute truth: to be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven, we must be absolutely perfect. No red debits made at any point in our life. I can’t speak for you, but as for me that means I don’t qualify. I’ve done a lot of wrong things, and continue to make errant choices on occasion. I’m not perfect, and in fact am a long way from it. Which begs the question, if God requires perfection (and He does), and I’m not (which is unarguably true), what qualifies me for Heaven? The answer can all be summed up in one word: forgiveness.
If we are forgiven and our sins eliminated by the grace of God, we stand positioned as a fully redeemed child of His. The best-known New Testament scripture (John 3:16) goes like this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The next verse (John 3:17) completes the promise: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
We cannot earn the right to Heaven by our good behavior. We can’t work our way there. There is no quid pro quo at the judgment seat of Christ. We’re either in, or we’re out, contingent only on whether we’re forgiven, or not. Pretty simple really.
So, how are we forgiven? It’s almost too good to be true. Jesus took our sins upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21) and accepted the horrific punishment for them, so we could be forgiven and reconciled perfectly with God. You can be completely cleansed, without a single spot or blemish; bleached bright in God’s forgiveness. It’s a matter of saying yes to Jesus’s offer of love and acceptance.
It’s like this really: Imagine it is Christmas morning, and there’s a gift under the tree wrapped up for you, with a tag saying “from Jesus”. Inside the package is forgiveness, life everlasting, abundant provision, and eternal contentment. You’ve been too naughty to deserve the gift, and don’t feel good enough about yourself to open it. But God cares about you so much that He gave the gift anyway. It’s a grace gift. Only one question remains; are you willing to humble yourself and unwrap the present, or are you going to leave it under the tree? You can probably guess what my recommendation is.
Merry CHRISTmas friends. My wish for you is to know the immeasurable joy found in the true reason for this season, Jesus, God’s Gift to you.
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .