I had two encounters with "free" last week.
The first encounter went like this ...
Our cable went out. Living in a small townhouse complex, whenever new neighbors move in, it seems like our cable gets cut off. Wires grow like vines along the back wall of our house.
The cable repair people said they would take a couple of days to come out to the house. In the meantime, an electrician working nearby approached me. "I could fix your cable for you and set it up so you never have to pay for it again" he said. Free cable. Free internet. Thousands of dollars over the next several years.
Free, but stolen.
The second encounter went like this ...
Some friends were selling a nice leather couch. With the baby and another on the way (along with two dogs), we had been thinking about getting rid of our cloth couch and replacing it with something less allergenic and less smell-absorbing. The couch our friends were selling was really nice, deeply discounted, better than anything we could ever afford new.
We counted up our cash, made our moving plans and I drove to their house. When I got there, they told me: "We're not going to let you pay for it." Free furniture. Free gift.
Free, and given freely.
Free is a tricky concept for us. Getting something for free can boost our ego or make us feel ashamed. Some of the things we get for free, we treasure. Others, we discard.
In Christian theology, we believe that God's saving love for us is a free gift, not something we've stolen or tricked him into giving us. But many of us behave as if our free salvation was stolen, as if we gained it through a loophole or through some quick-witted twist. Such "free" salvation will always feel tenuous.
Have you ever struggled to receive God's free gift as a gift and not something you've stolen?