Was it only a year ago we were together for Thanksgiving? I confess -seems like it was more years, many more. Actually it must have been in another era altogether, when life was what is now just a memory. It was then she made the announcement that was met with applause and such joy. We all celebrated with her as we shared in her accomplishment and her new status.
The reason for the celebration? This beautiful young woman, who had married into our family several years prior, had become a U.S. citizen. She had studied, put in time and effort to make this dream a reality. And now it was real. Why is it people who risk more or invest more to become citizens of this country value it more than those of us who have this status awarded us because birth bequeathed belonging upon us before we could even desire it for ourselves?
I guess it is because we tend not to value that which costs us nothing. King David knew this very well. There is a story told in 1 Chronicles 21 about David and a sacrificial offering he made to the Lord. David had done wrong and God was punishing Israel for David’s sin. But . . .
“David said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O Lord my God, let Your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on Your people.’ ” (1 Chronicles 21:17)
David was then instructed to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. There he would sacrifice to make atonement for his sin. To this end David said to Araunah,
“Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.” (1 Chronicles 21:22)
Now we are told that when David approached, Araunah “bowed down before David with his face to the ground.” Remember, David was the king and Araunah was simply one of his many subjects. Why did David offer to pay him? He could have simply taken it as his own, that was his kingly right. Araunah even offered his oxen for the sacrifice, his wheat for the grain offering and his threshing sledges for the wood for the fire.
As king, David could have demanded a discount. But he didn’t. He offered to pay full price. In reality, David didn’t have to ask for any of it. It was freely offered up to him for his use by Araunah simply because he was the king. But surprisingly, here is David’s reply to Araunah’s generous offer,
“No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)
Perhaps King David understood that there was no element of sacrifice involved in making a sacrifice or a burnt offering of other people’s property, which would require nothing from him and therefore could have no impact on him. The things that are dear to us are things hard fought, hard won, hard to replace, precious and priceless because they cost us something.
David’s relationship to God was that precious, priceless, costly thing that required he be willing to pay a price. Obedience can be costly, but a right relationship with a holy God demanded nothing less of David. Such a relationship demands nothing less of me, either.
“So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.” (1 Chronicles 21:25)
David was willing to pay the price – the full price. Am I? Citizenship has a cost. Just ask those who escape to our country seeking asylum. Asylum from what? – we should be asking ourselves. People are still pouring into our country even while those brought up here under the protections and freedoms America provides are actively attempting to tear her down.
Why? Could it be because the freedoms, opportunities, peace, prosperity in this land full of possibility and hope have cost them nothing personally? So they spend their days in idle diversions, disgruntled, entitled, envious of anyone who seems to be better off, eager to blame anyone or anything for their discontent, whether individuals or institutions.
They tear down our statues, our cities, our businesses, our public spaces, – they tear down our laws, taking with them our safety and our peace – they tear down our Bill of Rights, taking with it our protections of free speech, of the ability to worship as we choose and of assembly. (well some people have been allowed to assemble in large numbers while others have been forbidden to assemble, turns out it depends on the reason for the assembly of people together – which begs the question, Who is deciding who can assemble and who can’t?)
When did we become so comfortable, so complacent that we are unwilling to sacrifice even the most minor of our conveniences or our comforts in an attempt to preserve our vanishing freedoms? Will we not lift a finger, not raise an objection, not a cry of protest, not even a whimper?
It will cost us, that is certain. In this cancel culture, the price is escalating. For some, it is now more than being cancelled on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV, radio or in print – they may fear losing their jobs if they speak out. This is a big price to pay. Still . . .
Will we watch our freedom of speech slip away while we stand silent? Soon censorship will have silenced us all into submission and into the unity of thought and action which censorship demands. I find this ironic in that I thought diversity was the mantra, the banner under which we are being shamed into silent compliance with whatever is deemed currently correct discourse at the moment.
Is the classic book “Gone with the Wind” now literally gone with the wind? Or is it promised to return to us in some new reimagined, rewritten, sanitized, politically correct form that will now be deemed acceptable (even though unrecognizable) but nevertheless now approved by . . . by whom?
Who gets to make these decisions? I didn’t vote to ban “Gone with the Wind”. Did you, dear readers? Which books are next? The Bible? (it is currently banned in China as well as in other countries) This is what we call the slippery slope. How much are we willing to risk?
Nathan Hale paid the ultimate price saying, “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Others have also paid full price for the freedoms we have known in this country. These brave patriots knew what King David understood – there is a price to be paid for anything of significance.
Jesus explained it to His disciples and to the crowd of people surrounding them in these words,
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)
Some things are worth paying full price. What did Lincoln say about the fallen soldiers’ sacrifice when he spoke at Gettysburg, dedicating the cemetery where they would be buried? Lincoln said the soldiers had given “their last full measure of devotion.” They had given their all so that others might live in freedom and in peace.
Today, the world watches, waiting to see the outcome of our struggle. Refugees risk everything to come here, not unlike the first “boat people”, those on ships like the Mayflower. Now that was one perilous journey. There was no guarantee that one would arrive safely in the “New World” and many died before their ship ever reached shore. But they were willing to take the risk in their pursuit of a better life, a life defined by freedom – freedom from the crown, freedom to determine their own destiny, freedom to worship openly without fear, freedom of speech and of assembly.
If only we fought with swords and sabers, our battle might be in clearer resolution before us. But we are confused. Who is the enemy? BLM says black lives matter, but their actions say no lives matter to them, just their ideology and their agenda of tearing democracy down. No lives are lifted up by any of their actions. Antifa by virtue of its name, implies that it is fighting fascism. But its actions are the opposite of its name. CRT (critical race theory) one would think would be anti-racist, but the perspective, philosophy and actions of this teaching create and empower division and racism where none existed before. They are racists pretending to be anti-racists by their rhetoric. But their actions speak louder than their words.
Time we stopped listening to the rhetoric and started looking at what is happening around us. Time to speak up or forever hold our peace. (there will be no peace if we hold it now)
My ultimate citizenship, however, is not here.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20)
This heavenly citizenship comes at great cost. The cost? Jesus’s death on a cross, paying with His blood for my sins.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
I want to be like the person in this parable in Matthew 13:44,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Anything worthwhile comes at a cost. Citizenship in a free country, citizenship in God’s kingdom. Both are worth the price of admission.
sincerely, Grace Day