The amazing grace of the gift

Doug Campbell - Contributing columnist

Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “It is not what I don’t understand in the Bible that troubles me; but I am troubled by those things which I do understand and which I find very difficult to measure up to.”

Wise man.

I find it helpful, especially when I’m overwhelmed with current events, personal and public, to focus on the things that Scripture makes quite clear.

One such – and perhaps the foremost – is the idea of “gift.”

We cannot begin to deal with, let alone understand God without confronting “gift”, or as the Bible has it: “Grace”; amazing grace.

That the creation exists at all: God’s gift. Our existence, our lives within that creation: Gift. Whatever the talents – few or many (check the parable) – we posses or develop: Gift. Our acceptability to God, our “salvation”, if you will: Gift.

“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (St Paul, Romans 3:28 and Ephesians 2:8-9) So, faith itself: Gift, grace.

In one of my parishes there was a great saint for whom no one could do anything without being repaid somehow. That is until he fell so ill that he could not reciprocate the kindnesses others showed him. It drove him nuts! His family and I conspired to convince him to “just say ‘thanks’.”

The world works on a “quid pro quo” (You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours) basis. Don’t forget it.

But, that falls flat when it comes to dealing with God. The Kingdom works on a grace economy. The gifts flow from God and get redistributed on an as-needs basis by us. At least that’s the plan; in answer to Cain’s question – yes, we ARE our siblings’ keepers. That leaves us with nothing to do but just say “thanks”.

The term, “Free Gift” is redundant. If it’s not free, it’s not a gift.

It might be payment, it might be a bribe, but it’s not a gift.

When we’ve run out of things to do to repay or bribe God, accept what He gives, including peace that passes understanding, and just say, “Thanks.”

Pastor Doug Campbell is a retired Lutheran pastor and a member of Faith, Wilmington. He currently is supplying pulpits in the Southern Ohio Synod. He was formerly Deputy Wing Chaplain for the Civil Air Patrol in Ohio. Before seminary he worked for the Chillicothe (O) Gazette, and as the editor of the Chanute AFB newspaper in Rantoul, Illinois.

This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.

Doug Campbell

Contributing columnist