“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” — Matthew 13:4-46
SEVERAL YEARS BACK, my nephew came stomping out of a small souvenir shop near the hotel my family and I were staying at during our family reunion. He was in tears, absolutely inconsolable.
As his mother was putting him in the car, out came the words, “But I have wanted it my whole life!”
He was 4 at the time. Apparently, there was a small wooden whistle that had caught his eye, and he could not bear the idea of living without it.
Watching children has a way of causing you reflect on your own life.
I found myself asking, “What is in this life that I would be that passionate about, that determined and that I would do anything to possess?” What is it that “I have wanted all my life”?
As I thought about this, and it being just after July 4, I thought one logical answer would be “freedom,” something we already enjoy because of the sacrifice of others.
We enjoy a freedom that so many long for — the freedom to not be censored, the freedom to express and practice the Christian faith and the freedom to point others to the one true God.
That freedom, purchased by others as they held nothing back in order to purchase it, is truly something I have wanted all my life, and I am profoundly thankful that it is mine and yours to share.
There is something else that I would do anything for, that I have wanted all of my life and am profoundly thankful that I can call mine.
It is what is described in the above passages from the book of Matthew.
I have been purchased, won and brought into the Kingdom of Heaven through Christ. When looking at his words, it is easy to interpret the message as emphasizing your work, what you need to do, what you need to sacrifice in order to gain the kingdom.
It would be easy to read those verses as if they were saying that as a Christian, you need to sell all you have and give everything you possess to earn your salvation.
After all, there are many places where our Lord does say that the cost of being his disciple is the complete surrender of life and worldly possessions (Mattew 16:24-26, 19:21).
However, the passage above speaks to how one is introduced and brought into the Kingdom of God, not how one lives as a disciple.
We know how we become a disciple. It is the through hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17, John 1:12-13, John 15:16).
We are wrapped up into the kingdom through that Word of God cutting through the darkness of our souls and hearts and bringing life, just as it did on that first day (Genesis 1:3).
It is that same word that became flesh and dwelt among us: Christ Jesus won us freedom from sin and death through his death and resurrection.
It is easy to understand these passages above as if they are teaching what is expected from you.
However, what our Lord is teaching is what he did. He is the one who found the treasure hidden in the field, gave all that he had to purchase it. He was the one who found that fine pearl and sacrificed all of these belongings to obtain it.
You are that treasure. You are that fine pearl.
The Kingdom of God is seen and experienced through the reign of Jesus, who died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), poured out his soul for mankind (Psalm 22:14) and brought light and life where only death and darkness reigned (John 1:4).
Because of this, our Lord, who purchased you through his blood (1 Peter 1:19), has set you free from guilt and a troubled conscience.
In Christ you are forgiven. In Christ, as a citizen of his kingdom, you possess a freedom from condemnation and death.
Salvation is yours not because of what you can do, but because of what Jesus has already done.
What is worth being passionate about? What is worth being so determined, that we would do anything for, that we will want our whole life?
Thanks be to God, it has been given to us freely in his son’s blood and resurrection. It is a freedom of soul and conscience that so many desperately long for.
Join me in sharing it, living it and rejoicing because of it.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or pastorlovejoy @rocketmail.com.