Essays | Closing God’s Gift Cycle

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This essay is an adaptation of a sermon I delivered in church (audio is a little crappy).  


The prodigal son.

A son asked his father for his share of his property, he grabbed it, travelled far way, and squandered it as if tomorrow was not a thing. Very quickly, as you could have imagined, his situation began to turn sour, then bitter, then ugly. As, at some point he dined (passionately) with the swine.

Fortunately for him, he realized that even the slaves in his father’s house don’t get it that low – “I mean, common, I just finished a meal with the pigs”, he might have thought. But he finally got wise: he took a risk, a very important one. He  went back to his father’s house.

And Guess what? Surprise. The surprise began to roll in: nice robes, clean shoes, nice hat, ring, free food, hug, kisses, feast, and I can make the list can go on forever, but let’s stop there for now.

The father said, at some point:

For this son of mine was dead, and now he is alive, for he was lost, and now he is found.” [Luke 15 vs 24]

Friends, our God is a merciful God.

Simon Peter.

Simon peter betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ (three times to be precise).

“Who is that Jesus dude?” he might have said. “What does he look like? … Did you say he is black? … Messiah? Really? How do you even spell that?”

Yet, Jesus Christ chose him to lead the church. He said, and I quote:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18]

Friends, our God is a merciful God.

The adulterous woman.

She was caught in the act (literally), and about to face the full wrath of the law, which guarantees the contact of, at least, a couple of stones on her head, and mostly likely with a decent amount of blood spill on the ground. But, Jesus came to the rescue by saying a few words and everybody disappeared miraculously, “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.” He ended up the drama by saying this to the adulterous woman,

“go and sin no more” [John 8: 1-11]

Verily, verily, verily, I say unto you friends, our God is a merciful God!

The concept of the mercy of God is very intriguing: The mercy of God is free, excessive, but expensive. Then the question which jumps out, becomes: how can it be free and expensive? I will get to that towards the end of the essay, but, first, let me address why it is expensive. It is expensive because it cost the kingdom of God a price – the sacrifice of the son of God.

The key word is sacrifice, and at this point, it is very important that I unpack the meaning of the word sacrifice.

Sacrifice scene by Kraipale

The Philosopher, Moshe Halbertal, did exactly this in his book, On Sacrifice. The use of the word sacrifice has evolved over the millennia, to mean, in certain context, giving up something for something (deemed) higher than the entity (e.g. to sacrifice your time, your money etcetera), this he described as to ‘Sacrifice for’. However, a more traditional meaning of the word sacrifice means something different, which is reflected more in ancient texts, and certainly in the biblical text – described as to ‘Sacrifice to’.

Halbertal described the latter:

“[as] a specific type of gift that is given in a hierarchical context, whereby the ordinary obligation to receive is not valid.” [1]

In other words, the completion of a gift cycle which a sacrifice births, is contingent on the receiver receiving the gift. And to put it even more plainly: the goal of a sacrifice is to initiate a gift cycle. An acceptance completes the cycle, a rejection keeps it wide open.  (Remember Cain and Abel’s Sacrifice? One was accepted, the other was rejected.)

Back to the sacrifice of the son of God. How can we receive the gift (of this sacrifice)? You might want to know.

This will require us to take a trip back to Romans 6 (the very first part), a very familiar trip for most Christians, it goes thus: “what shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin and ask for the grace of God to abound? God forbid”.

(The Deposition by Raphael (1507))

In order words, receiving the gift requires a) genuine repentance, and b) the believe in God. And, how might we know if we believe in God? There is a logic which answers this exact question and it works pretty well: “To believe is to obey, and to obey is to believe” [2]. And we can obviously paraphrase and say the following: obedience is the sole manifestation of believe.

Even though the mercy of God is almost unbelievable, too good to be true, that kind of thing; a price has to be paid for it. And this price is to simply close the gift cycle – to receive the gift of God’s sacrifice.

Friends, to trust and to obey.

And if you have a few minutes to spare, we could even sing, together. Here.



[1] Moshe Halbertal, On Sacrifice, Pp 7-22

[2] James Sire, Habits of the Mind, Pp 99

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4 thoughts on “Essays | Closing God’s Gift Cycle

  1. Ijidolapo Ijiwoye says:

    Our God is so merciful. This is an enlightening read and I particularly enjoyed the juxtapositions, well done. And the ‘black Jesus’ input 😂

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