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Impossible to Repay
Photo: Katja Kodba
I once heard a story from a woman whose husband of over twenty years was given the devastating diagnosis of cancer and was quickly scheduled for treatments. In the days that followed, she was sure to take the two busses to the hospital and visit him everyday. She did all of the shopping, she paid the bills on time, she mowed the lawn. When he came home, she cared for him carefully and tenderly until he was back up on his feet. 

Perhaps realizing all that she was doing for him, and feeling gratitude, but not quite knowing what to say besides “thank you” he felt the need to tack on “I’ll pay you back”. I still remember the look of bewilderment on her face and the sadness in her voice. The whole situation had taken place many years earlier, and her husband recovered fully, but she was still extremely affected by what he told her. She took care of him, because he was her husband, she loved him, was happy he survived and she wanted to see him well, not because she expected repayment. After all, how could he possibly pay her back? Her taking care of him was not a favor—it was love.

Sometimes Love is an Act

Does a loving mother expect her child to repay her for the sleepless nights she spent doting on him? Do you want your pet to bring you breakfast in bed one morning for the love, food, and squeaky toy you provide her? It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? The more I think about it, I realize that true love really can be difficult to understand, but perhaps only because I am a human being, and have grown up hearing terms such as “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, and “you can’t get something for nothing”.

Doing things for nothing in return is both treasured and uncommon. Whether it is tedious or simple, when you do something for someone, and you expect nothing in return—not even a "thank you," you are exhibiting true love.

If you knew that God was on the other side of your front door, just waiting to collect from you for sending Jesus to die in your place, wouldn’t you be flabbergasted? Would you be as discouraged as I would if you knew God was waiting for you to pay money for watching over you and keeping you from harm and danger? How would I even begin to put a price on love? Here’s $5 for helping me to cross the street safely, and $100 for saving me from drowning that one time, and I made it through that heart procedure alright—that must be worth about $500?

You see where I am going with this? It is simply impossible. We cannot pay God back, and we are so blessed that we are not required to, all we can do is thankfully accept.

God truly loves us. He chose to love us, and then acted up on it. God loves us simply because we are. It’s hard to fathom, impossible to return, and unimaginable not to be affected by such a love.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life" (John 3:16).

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By Maxine Young. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the THE MESSAGE ®.

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