Sunday, May 7, 2017

Earned or Given?

Out here on the reservation of the Jicarilla Apache Nation they have a lot of respect for veterans of the US military.  There are signs as one crosses the boundary onto the reservation saying that the Jicarilla Apache Nation thanks all veterans for their service.  During the community summer festival they have a program and lunch for veterans and their families.  I went last year and the lunch was incredible!  On Veteran's Day they have a breakfast and parade, and the newspaper that day includes the names of all tribal members who have served in the military of the United States.  And if all that wasn't enough, veterans get free coffee at the gas station, year-round. 

The Nation appreciates veterans, and most of the ways they thank them are available to any veteran, and not just tribal members.  Peace time service, wartime service, overseas service, or service no farther away than the next state, none of those differences matter.  All that matters is that a person signed up for the military and served honorably. 

That last distinction is where things get just a bit more complicated.  I spent four years in the US Navy and in the Navy, as in any of the other branches of service, in order to serve honorably one, at a minimum, has to complete basic training.  A person isn’t truly an airman, soldier, sailor or marine until they have completed basic training and earned that title.  The Marines even used that in their advertising at one time, noting that the title of Marine was "Earned, never given." 

It occurred to me that the title of "Christian" works in a way that is exactly opposite.  In Romans 10:9, Paul writes:

"If  you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

And in John 4:13 Jesus tells the 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."

To receive the gift of salvation in Jesus there is absolutely nothing that we can do except to come to Him and have faith in what He has done on our behalf.  All we can do is to believe that He gave His very life so that our sin against God could be forgiven.  That is it.  It is something that is impossible to earn but which He very freely gives away.

Since coming to live on the reservation I have become proud of my service in the US Navy in ways that I had not really considered before.  But something of infinitely greater value is the name of "Christian," a name that is impossible to earn, but is very freely given to all who have come to have faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. 

May this name, His name, be the name that you are known by.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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