Yesterday I received a final gift for Christmas. We had visited a group of relatives in
, primarily to celebrate our daughter’s recent birthday with them. After spending the afternoon together, as we were leaving the house of her grandparents, we were handed a package with some gifts for us. Since we had already said all of our good-byes and our daughter was on her way to the car we just said “Thanks!” and headed off, to open them after we got home. Iowa
In the package for me was the tool of a man’s dreams…a 14-in-1 multi-tool! One of those folding tools that has inside of it a pliers, a saw, a file, a knife and ten other useful gadgets. I already have one of these types of tools but right away I thought that this would be a handy thing to keep in my car. I even had a minor problem with my car that I was able to fix with the 14-in-1 multi-tool last night.
But more than its overall usefulness, the thing about the tool that really caught my eye was a phrase on the package it came in, which said:
There are many things in life that have guarantees. Appliances, cars, bicycles and many other things have guarantees. A guarantee is a generally a pledge that something will perform in a certain way for a period of time, and that it will be replaced or repaired if it does not do so.
Some guarantees are conditional, i.e. they last for a period of time or are only valid in certain circumstances. How often have we seen or heard the phrase, “Limited lifetime guarantee?” That has always struck me as being open to a lot of interpretation. What about the guarantee is limited? And for whose lifetime?
One variation of a lifetime guarantee is offered by Bill Bussman, a mandolin maker in
. His instruments are guaranteed to the “original owner for the life of the maker.” New Mexico
Sometimes the inclusion of the guarantee is what draws us to the particular product in the first place. Craftsman brand hand tools are one such example for me. Their tools are guaranteed. Period. If I ever break or wear out a tool of theirs they will replace it, without question. Once I found a Craftsman hammer. 20 years later the handle cracked and I took it in for replacement. The guarantee they offer on their tools is so comprehensive that it covered a tool I hadn’t even paid for.
Craftsman tools are sold by Sears, a company that has existed over 125 years, which is longer than the lifetime of any person known to be living on earth today. So their guarantee would seem to out-last a human lifetime, possibly approaching “forever.” But what of my multi-tool and its claim to be “guaranteed forever?”
First off, it’s not a name brand tool. It’s not from Craftsman, Snap-on, Stanley or other well-known manufacturer. The label is “Tool Shop,” which is not one I had ever heard of before. The tool itself seems to be something decent, although there is no mention whatsoever on it of the “Tool Shop” brand. Turning the package over I learned that the guarantee is through Menard’s, and it covers everything except the knife blades. So much for the fairly simple claim of “Guaranteed Forever.” And Menards is a very big company, one which has been around for 50 years, but that doesn’t suggest to me that they have the wherewithal to guarantee something forever, which is a really, really long time.
On the other hand I doubt that they literally mean “forever” but that more likely they mean “for a pretty long time, at least for those people who keep track of the packaging, amidst all the other detritus of their lives.”
There is, however, one thing that I know of that is indeed “Guaranteed Forever,” and that is the gift of relationship that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Speaking of this gift in John 4:13-14 Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well,
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
It would be fairly shallow of me to assert that Jesus merely offers himself to those who would have faith in him so that they can receive the simple benefit of “eternal life.” I’ve picked a few verses from John to show something about God’s gift, but it isn’t as simple as imaging Jesus strolling through the neighborhood saying, “Eternal life is right here! Come and get some for yourself!” Something much deeper is going on in Jesus’ offer, and also in our decision to accept it on faith. In the offer of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, and to us, he is reconciling, or 'making right' in himself, God’s justice and God’s mercy.
Article 20 of the Belgic Confession helps us understand this more clearly, saying:
We believe that God—who is perfectly merciful and also very just—sent the Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death.
So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.
The words of the Belgic Confession spell out in explicit terms how far human sin separates humans from the righteousness of God, and how the only way the chasm that holds a holy God on one side and a sinful human on the other can be bridged is through the work of Jesus.
In the bringing together God’s justice and mercy in Jesus, in his finished work on the cross and resurrection to eternal life, the person accepting Jesus offer, by faith, receives perhaps the only thing that is truly “Guaranteed Forever.”
A 14-in-1 multi-tool is indeed a handy thing to have around and I think that whenever I use the one I received yesterday I’ll always be mindful of a more perfect gift, in fact the most perfect gift, the free gift of eternal life, known only in Christ.