“This guitar is rad! I want you to have it,” Eli said to me as he stopped strumming the guitar while it continued to resonate. “I want to give you a guitar I don’t use anymore, so you can exchange it for this one.”
I was stunned because I barely knew Eli and now he was offering me a guitar to exchange for the one I was debating purchasing. I immediately offered to buy his “throw-away guitar” in order to exchange for the one I was buying, but Eli would only accept giving me his guitar pro bono. Something in me just kept saying “no” — probably because once Eli revealed the guitar he wanted to donate, I instantly recognized it as a guitar almost twice the price of the one I was receiving.
“Why are you refusing my charity?” Eli asked in all sincerity.
That question echoed around in my head. “Why am I refusing?” I began asking myself. Is it because I’d do things differently than Eli and sell the guitar? Or did I feel that, if I wanted the guitar, then I should pay for it? Or was it that I believed I didn’t deserve such a gift?
As these words rang louder and louder, it wasn’t long before I could hear Christ asking the same question of me: “Why are you refusing MY charity?”
Charity /CHerədē/: (noun) A Reckless Love
“Give us Barabbas!” the people shouted in John 18, when Pontius Pilate asked the crowd which prisoner they wanted freed. We know Barabbas. We know that he is a murderer, an insurrectionist and revolutionary against Rome — a terrible, bad man who deserves death and deserves a crucifixion. There is a whole litany of reasons Barabbas should be put to death.
But Barabbas is freed by the gift offered by Jesus Christ, the one who takes his punishment and accepts his place. This is Christ’s love: “Go your way” (Matthew 10:52). It is a love so strong and incomprehensible that it may even be viewed by some as reckless because it risks everything for the chance at a relationship. Barabbas is freed; we don’t know what happens to him afterward. We don’t know whether he simply turns away from Christ, or whether he may have ended up like blind Bartimaeus who, after Christ healed his blindness and told him to go his way, rose and began to follow Him. Even so, regardless of the choice Barabbas could have made — to accept Christ’s gift, or to reject it — Christ still offered the gift of his entire life so that Barabbas could be free.
I know Barabbas because I am Barabbas. I know that I made chains for myself with sin — and because of that, I know what I deserve. But somehow, when I deserve death and suffering, I walk free. The question, like the mystery ending of Barabbas’ story, is how I respond when that gift is handed to me.
When I have the opportunity to receive the gift of life and redemption given freely to me, I turn to Jesus and often say, “No! I don’t want freedom. I have to earn this!” But Jesus just asks that I give it all to Him. I again tell Him, “NO! I don’t deserve this!” I refuse my freedom because of my sin.
Then I hear Jesus say, “Why are you refusing My charity?”
The Answer to Charity is “Yes.”
Eli’s offer of charity challenged my pride — but through him, Christ’s charity was made obvious. I was hardened to accept Eli’s gift. I didn’t deserve it, but by saying “yes” to him, I was made aware of how Christ was calling me to say “yes” to His love and not limit that free gift to what I believed I deserved.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m beginning to understand that our day-to-day lives are an opportunity to say “yes” to charity and to better understand God through it. Is it hard to accept when someone wants to give you a gift or a compliment? How do you feel when someone wants to make you food or do the dishes for you? Would you reject feeling consoled in a time you are guilty or you’re so sure that God couldn’t love you until X, Y and Z takes place?
So here is my challenge: Instead of refusing charity with a “no thanks,” say “yes.” Say “yes” when your friend offers you lunch or coffee, and mean it when you say “thank you” to someone holding the door for you or to an authentic compliment. By accepting charity in these small ways, you and I can grow to accept Christ’s free gift in a bigger way (a salvation way, if you know what I mean).