So often, we see ourselves through the eyes of the world that is constantly evaluating and judging us. What if we looked at ourselves through the eyes of God? What would we see? In his book, The Romance of Grace, our friend Jim McNeely has an uplifting, but rather scandalous answer which he takes from Matthew 13: 44-46. “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls and, upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
“If God is the merchant, what- or who- is the pearl? Here is the crux of the matter, the amazing fact. We are the pearl. This is the intent of the message: we are a rare and sought-after treasure in the eyes of God. He sees something unseen by our own condemning self: not failure, but beauty. He really, really likes us. He wants us; He perceives enormous beauty and wealth in us. He has become greedy and jealous over us because He is consumed with a strong and passionate desire for us.
“I will never forget the moment when this first dawned on me. I was going through a number of difficulties; my business was failing, and I had the dreadful task of laying off my trusted and devoted employees who had sacrificed much for me. I had many other problems going on that were even worse. It was a bad time. Meanwhile, in a men’s Bible study, we were going through the parables of Jesus and had just discussed His story of the pearl. As I was taking a shower, I was pondering this seemingly dull and familiar parable when it suddenly hit me: He is the merchant and I am the pearl. Me! I’m the pearl. That means He went and sacrificed all to get me, not just because of some weird theological obligation but because He wanted me and saw great worth in me. When that truth hit me, I cried so hard that my stomach muscles hurt. A switch had turned on inside somewhere, and I finally understood: God really desires me.”
McNeely’s romantic language opens another way of looking at the gift of grace. It’s much more radical and transformative than we think.
“I am walking today- and you are too, if you have seen your treasure- as one who is greatly loved by the God who is real. In His eyes, you are pearls worthy of sacrifice. To God, you and I are easily worth dying for. God sees something in us that no one else sees, and He is the only expert whose opinion matters. No other is in love with us the way He is. Forget the focus on being good. We are not good. It doesn’t work on that basis anyway. Let’s worry about real desire and walk in the joy of being the ones who are very greatly loved. This is the soil and the seed that bears all other fruit. Grace is not just a doctrinal position. Grace does not focus on us primarily as sinners. Grace starts with a very great and a very intense love, a God initiated love. All doctrine, all atonement, all virtue, all practice, stems from the fact that God loves us; any teaching that obscures, neglects, or denies this truth is damaging and in error. In our salvation and fellowship with the Lord, we are not just “getting right” with Him. We are entering a cosmic romance with a passionate lover, and He is interested in our heart’s truest desire. His deepest objective isn’t to make us more moral; it is to get us to love Him back. Virtue is the fruit, not the root.”