Two key words are used in the most famous quotation. The first is “gave“ as opposed to swapped, traded, or bartered. The giving was done out of love not from a heart expecting a like-kind return on the investment.
The second word is “believe.” I can believe in gravity or not, and neither position changes the existence of gravity one whit. Gravity does not require any action on my part to do what it does. If I say there is no gravity, I will fall just as easily as the person who acknowledges its power.
A grace clarifying moment in history involves two thieves. They both knew what they had done to deserve their punishment. One curses the situation while the other accepts what is coming. There is a third man who is with them. Though under the same sentence of death, he is in fact innocent.
All three would die later on that fateful day. Their outcomes, however, are profoundly different. The third man offers a gift to the other two. One thief completed his “believe” side of the interchange by accepting what the third man “gave.” The accepting thief goes to paradise because he believes. The other does not.
Neither thief was required to read a book, to attend a meeting, to give his time, or money. The only requirement was accepting the grace given by the third man. As you can see they were in no position to offer anything in return as the three of them were being executed. The third man had power and grace to dispense to the two who were powerless. That power was not from his wealth, his possessions, or his standing in society; it was from his pure heart.
Though he was in exactly the same physical position as the other two, he had something to offer – forgiveness. This greatest of gifts was given from the third man’s heart. It was his last manly action. That man was Jesus. He offers the same gift to each of us, despite who we are and what we have done. That is grace.
“ For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.“