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July 24, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”—Romans 5:6–8 (NLT)
Do you like fairy tales? I love fairy tales. My all-time favorite is Beauty and the Beast. It’s a tale as old as time, and one that makes me cry every time I watch it. Great thinker and writer G.K. Chesterton was also a big fan of Beauty and the Beast. Why? Because according to him, it teaches that "the noble lesson behind the fable of The Beauty and the Beast is that one must be loved in order to become lovable.”
Isn’t it amazing to think that this is exactly how the Lord loves us? While we were still unlovable, while we were still beastly, while we were still living under a curse, Christ Jesus—who loves us with an overwhelming, never-ending, unconditional love—died for us, to save us because we are utterly helpless to save ourselves and attain eternal life apart from Him.
In the Greek, the word “helpless” is asthenon, which translates as “a condition or disease in which the body lacks or has lost strength either as a whole or in any of its parts.” Think of it like a spiritual dystrophy. While we were still diseased, weak, powerless, ungodly, and unlovable under the beastly curse of sin, Christ died for us!
Consider again the words of Chesterton: “The unlovely must be deeply loved before they become lovable.” Justification comes by faith in Jesus, who makes us worthy, righteous, and beautiful by His love. What a beautiful and profound revelation. We are unworthy until Christ gives us worth; we are unlovable until Christ’s love washes over us and penetrates our souls.
As Paul continues, his expression shows us just how unique and incomparable the love of God is to anything we as humans have ever known. He says, “Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
I consider myself a fairly generous person who cares about people. But the bottom line is there are very few people who I would actually die for . . . my wife and kids for sure, and maybe my closest loved ones. But if a random “righteous” person comes to me and asks me to die in their place, I’d respectfully decline. It’s nothing personal; you may be the nicest person on earth, but you’re not worth me leaving my wife without a husband and my kids without their father.
For argument’s sake, though, let’s say there was a random person who was so amazing that I decided to die in their place. I can tell you with complete certainty, though, that I wouldn’t die for a bad person. I’d venture to say that there are very few people who would die for someone like that. But that’s exactly what God did for all of us!
Christ died for us while we were helpless and ungodly (Romans 5:6), still enslaved to sin (Romans 5:8); while we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10). I don’t think there was ever a time that I considered myself God’s enemy, but that’s what my sin made me. Sin puts us at odds with the goodness, beauty, and perfection of the Lord. And this is the scandal of grace right here, folks: While we were still in our state of sin, the perfect, sinless Jesus died for us, in our place. He took our sin upon Himself, He extended His love to us, and invited us to be His friends. This is Beauty loving the Beast and making him beautiful.
He didn’t condemn us to death—which we deserve—nor did He leave us in our ruined state. He knew we could never earn or achieve redemption, so He brought redemption to us! As recipients of His grace, I pray every day we can also be effective and authentic ambassadors of His grace. I pray we can help others receive His grace and walk in His love!
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.