Monday, June 01, 2015

The Gift Refused - Eleanor Shepherd

Why would someone who was rich, with youth on his side and a responsible position in society refuse to accept the greatest gift He could ever be offered? That was the case for the rich young ruler, whose story is recorded in the Gospels.  He came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life (Mark 10: 17 – 30).  What he failed to understand is that the demands of God are rooted in His love for us.  By turning away, when Jesus told him to sell everything and give to the poor he failed to grasp the full implications of God’s love for him.  Even though he was rich and he was young and he was a ruler and he wanted to have eternal life, he lost out, because he refused to accept the greatest gift – God’s unconditional love that could transform his life.

The well-known British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was applauded as one of the world’s profound thinkers.  This winner of a Nobel prize, having been raised as a Christian, later made choices in his life that were inconsistent with his faith and ended up claiming to be an atheist.  He wrote an essay entitled, Why I Am Not a Christian.

            His daughter, Catherine Tait, who with her husband became a Christian, wrote a biography of her father, whom she loved and respected.  In this biography, she said, ‘‘I believe myself that his whole life was a search for God, or, for those who prefer less personal terms, for absolute certainty…Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind, at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space that had once been filled by God, and he never found anything else to put in it…’’

            Sometimes we resemble the rich young ruler.  Confronted with the choice to commit and obey, we turn away.  When we become aware that all that God demands of us is centred in His love for us, our choice can be to accept that love and trust Him, although we may have to give up what we most value.

            When we led The Salvation Army in France, God gave me a vision that I have never forgotten. In my vision, I saw God holding out to The French Salvation Army, a huge box wrapped in shiny gold paper.  Around the box was a large gold ribbon tied in a beautiful bow on top. I saw this gift as symbolic of His love. Then my gaze turned from this exquisite gift, and I saw the Salvationists of France.  Instead of looking up at the beautiful gift in anticipation, they were hunched over looking at the ground, burdened down by arms full of old clothes and piles of papers.  They could not receive the gift being offered them because they were focused on the burdens they were carrying.  At that moment, I was reminded again we must make our choice to respond to God’s demands and let go of the things we trust in order to receive His unconditional and all sufficient love for us. 

Word Guild Award

Word Guild Award


fudge4ever said...

We are so forgetful and distracted, aren't we? Turning away from God's love to focus on our own rusty treasures. Good reminder. Thank you Eleanor.
Pamela Mytroen

Peter Black said...

Thank you Eleanor. I think you describe well an aspect of the human condition of which we all need to beware as Christian believers, illustrated in your reference to your French Salvationist friends (and as Pam has encapsulated).
Bertrand Russell's eventual course - along with that of others who've turned their back on God and Christ - has long left a pang of sadness in my heart. And yet, how joy-inspiring are testimonies of those, such as C.S. Lewis, who having pursued other paths and explored issues of life and philosophy/ies, come to deep and settled faith in the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. I'm sure that his experience "Surprised by Joy" still takes place more often than we are aware. ~~+~~

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Eleanor - I like how you wove the stories of Bertrand Russell and your vision in France into this parable. A well-written reminder to not focus on the burdens but on Jesus.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks Rose for your encouraging comments.

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