Christmas is already a distant memory. The craziness has come to a conclusion and families have gone back to the same routine. A person may already have to think twice about what they received under the decorated tree.
It’s no wonder that Jesus routinely talks about the lasting value of treasures in heaven. They are gifts that go way beyond description and human reason. His gifts are so difficult to fathom, Jesus needed to use parables to help people grasp the depth of God’s love and the riches in store throughout the kingdom of heaven.
Even the word “gift” does not adequately describe the treasures that await those who place their trust in God. The depth of joy and freedom from just punishment marks the gifts as they greatest a person can ever receive.
What are these gifts?
- The forgiveness of sins
- The gift of the Holy Spirit
The truly “indescribable” gift (2 Cor. 9:15) of the forgiveness of sins brings a person in God’s presence forever in heaven. The “incomparable” gift (Eph. 2:8) of the Holy Spirit brings faith and sets a person free.
The meaning behind the word “gift” gives us some more clues. In its purest sense, presenting a gift is prompted by love, appreciation, or even admiration. The act of giving means that nothing is expected in return, even though a simple thank you is appreciated. When a person extends forgiveness it can be described as a gift – especially to those who have hurt us and are not remorseful.
Yet, it is often said that in the act of giving, the presenter receives as much joy as the receiver. For instance, in the act of extending forgiveness, the forgiver is the primary beneficiary. The seeds of resentment and bitterness are buried and saplings of hope and peace begin to grow in its place.
In all gifts, the greatest are ones prompted by love.
The Bible teaches that only love fulfills the law and obeys the command to forgive others. But our human nature is far more prone to disagree. We follow laws. Those who break laws deserve to be punished, not forgiven.
He asked Jesus, “Should I forgive seven times?” “No,” Jesus answered, “but seventy-seven times.” Something thought possible by Peter was deemed impossible. If there was a law associated with forgiveness than it would be impossible to fulfill, because only love fulfills the law — not our actions.
It was love that prompted Christ to die on the cross and by so doing, fulfill the law.
The Apostle Paul mentions how easy it is to lay down your life for a friend. But how difficult would it be to lay down your life for someone who is undeserving, unworthy, or unrepentant? Their words or actions would disqualify themselves from receiving any type of gift — whether it’s sacrificing one’s life or even extending forgiveness. For all of these reasons, God’s love is described as incomparable. It is a love that stretches beyond direction — as far as the east is from the west. It is a love that is unfathomable because it goes beyond the depth of our understanding.
Forgiveness is a gift. Grace is a gift. All made possible by an act of love that carried Christ to the cross.
Perhaps that is why sacrificial love and forgiveness are the greatest way to introduce Christ to the world. It’s witnessing well.