Bought with a Price

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter Jesus rebuked Satan in the wilderness Satan thought evil would come back at an opportune time and destroy Jesus. That opportune time came on Good Friday, but Satan miscalculated. Satan’s smugness is shattered. Satan thought that putting the Messiah to death on a shameful execution cross would be the end of Jesus. From all outward manifestations Satan appeared to have won the struggle. To all those who were there it seemed Satan defeated God and the righteous had been outwitted.

Satan and all those who practice evil forgot that the mighty arm of God can strike evil in its gut and strike it so hard evil stands gasping. This is the victory of God. Although evil has not been eliminated it is now under the watchful eye of heaven. Also evil is under the watchful eyes of those who recognize that they are bought with a price and are no longer their own. The Church, that is, those who have been bought with a price and realize they are not their own, also called the community of the saved, has been recruited to struggle against the forces of evil and death.

The Church makes that struggle in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection—our resurrection. Not in the sure and certain knowledge that it knows what virtue is. The community of the saved is not appointed God’s moral watchdog, instead the community of the saved is engaged to be the people who exercise a moral love. A love that requires unbridled compassion for God’s poor. Moral love is a love that acts first to alleviate suffering and then speaks. The community speaks about the love of God that passes all understanding. That Divine love drives the moral lover to action.

As the Body of Christ has only one obligation. It is to live as Jesus did. He forgave, he healed, and he proclaimed the good news that God cares. In Jesus God acted and cared for the world. God has made it evident through Jesus’ life and ministry that caring matters. The function of the Church is to continue caring for the world and bring love to the people of the suffering earth. The promise of faith is more than a promise of a heavenly residence. Faith changes lives it does not postpone living.

While living, we can live in grace. That is, those faithful to the teachings of Jesus live in the love that passes all understanding. In that grace the faithful are saved from the power of sin and released from the terror of death. Salvation seems free to us because it is so freely given but it comes with a price. It is not the price we pay but the price Jesus paid.  Therefore, we are the recipients of God’s grace freely given. But that grace is expensive. Because it is so expensive the grace of God must be cherished.

A prayer I often use before celebrating the Holy Eucharist found in the Oxford Book of Prayers.[1] In that prayer I acknowledged that the congregation and I were and are in God’s presence and in that presence we are no longer our own. Those words, “no longer our own” meant that we had been purchased (redeemed is another good term to use here) by God through the cost paid by his Son on the cross.

In the deepest spiritual sense we are (as the prayer states) no longer our own persons. Not being our own is a foreign notion especially to Americans who believe fervently in the principle of “rugged individualism.” Americans are their own person and Americans often have a difficult time turning their lives over to something as ephemeral and insubstantial as the institutional idea of God. Further, in that spirit of rugged individualism, being bought is truly a foreign notion.

However, nothing has a value unless it is redeemed and some way paid for. For example, on the television program “Antiques Road Show” appraisers give all sorts of objects a monetary value. The owner may think of herself as rich because the appraiser said the antique object was worth a hundred-thousand dollars. But ask yourself, “Has anything changed?” The owner of the object is still the same person; the object is still the same. Nothing has changed. No one is richer and no one is poorer. How come? Well, no one has offered to buy the object. Not until an offer is made and the money paid has anything been changed. This may be a fact of our lives. We may give our selves a sense of personal value. Supposedly, I am valuable to others but there is no really good way to measure that value. Further, suggesting that my life has value is a self-serving statement. Life will carry on without me. The world was alive long before I existed. Even an idea of the world will continue long after I am not even a memory. If I am the lone assessor, my value is limited. But there is more to this story then the value of self-assessment. Fortunately, God is the one making the assessment. God assessed that my life (your lives, the lives of all of humanity) is valuable enough for God to pay the ultimate price.

That ultimate price is God’s own self. The price has been paid in the form of the most valuable exchange ever devised. The price is Christ Jesus on the cross. The promise of the new life Easter points to did not come cheaply.

[1] Oxford Book of Prayers, Oxford University Press, 1985, reissued 2002.

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