Last year I wrote a little booklet for the National Maritime Museum here in Ireland, for the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. During my research, I documented the stories of survivors, of which there were only a handful. It was interesting (and poignant) to consider how significant that rescue was for the survivors, and how it coloured and shaped their lives after that dreadful event.
They had experienced rescue and could never forget it.
It’s the way that Paul explains (in Galatians 1) what happens when someone comes to Christ. Listen to this paraphrase:
“I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue. Glory to God forever!”
This event is far more significant than even we the participants can fully realise. Paul mentions the key terms: “Grace and Peace (Great words!”) but refuses to allow them to turn into concepts or intellectual coinage. Grace means gift and peace means content.”We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins.”
The cross is a trade-off. Christ offered himself in our place, and in exchange, we received the grace of his gift and the peace,the content that he earned for us.
Here’s how he puts it in Romans 5: “By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”
These are the consequences of our salvation. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
Peace… grace:” We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us.”
And like those guys from the Lusitania, we have experienced rescue and it marks us forever. We’re the blessed. We made it through! Not that we can brag about the experience -all we did was recognise our condition and call out for help.
But we can brag about the one who changed our lives forever. How could you do otherwise? And”God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue.”
The words suggest that this is something powerful and personal. Think about the idea of peace, for example. I was speaking to a single lady with two small children, ready to die for her kids but frazzled near to death with the burden of so much to do. “Oh for a bit of peace,” she said.
There’s a speech in Henry VI (Part 2) that comes to mind:
“My Crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not deck’d with Diamonds, and Indian stones:
Nor to be seen: my Crown is call’d Content,
A Crown it is, that seldom Kings enjoy.”
Do you get the idea? I’d rather be at peace than be the richest person in the world. Oh for a little peace.
And yet, when you experience the rescue of Christ, that’s what you receive. Peace of mind. Peace after a long battle of trying to figure it out for yourself.
And grace. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” A gift cannot be purchased, or earned. It can only be received.