Do you want everything (everything good anyway)? Well it’s being offered to you…but for a price.
A lot of Christians get lulled into an over-simplification of their faith. This over-simplification deconstructs into a dangerous conclusion that there is nothing we have to *do* (i.e. a “work) in order to attain eternal life. They say that if your salvation requires “work” on your part, then you have implied that Jesus’ work was not enough or that His Grace is insufficient. Not only are both of those conclusions illogical, but they lead to a Christianity where there is nothing that one *has* to do (which is not Christianity at all).
Eternal salvation requires work on our part, not because Jesus’ work was insufficient, but because God requires us to work! When I require that my 3 yr-old son pick up his toys in order to get dessert, it doesn’t therefore follow that I am unable to pick up the toys myself. That would be nonsense. I just require that my son make the effort because I know it’s just and it’s good for him (and then I usually have to tidy them up properly myself even after his effort). I don’t require that he do it perfectly, but I do require that he make the effort.
And the requirement to make the effort (i.e. do some work) doesn’t therefore mean that God’s Grace must not be enough. In fact, it is only by His Grace that we are able to even *make the effort* in the first place! All Grace and Grace alone. This is (and always has been) Catholic teaching.
Is a Christian required to love? Yes. Is a Christian required to forgive? Yes. Is a Christian required to give up their own life for Christ and others? Yes. All of these require effort on our part. God could do them for us, but he prefers to work through our effort and free choice to cooperate with his Grace. It is that free choice which God gives us that makes real love even possible in our universe.
So is eternal life still offered to us as a “free” gift? Sure. But even free gifts, by the nature of the gift, can require something on the part of the receiver.
If somebody offers me free swimming lessons, I don’t actually receive swimming lessons by just passively sitting there, “accepting” them and proclaiming how much I believe in swimming lessons. No. To receive the swimming lessons it requires me to do something. I’ve gotta make an effort and I’ve gotta jump in and get wet.
That’s what choosing to be Christian is all about. It’s not some magical process by which we are given a free pass to get in to heaven without us having to do anything. On the contrary, it’s a free opportunity to let God’s Grace work on you by surrendering all, forgiving unconditionally and loving genuinely so that the trials and challenges of this world are transformed into things that sanctify you for the next.
Leonardo Da Vinci nailed it when he said “O Lord, thou givest us everything, at the price of an effort.”
Everything. But you have to make the effort to participate in the gift. Time to jump in with both feet and get wet.