So, What's the Catch?

Nothing beats a family vacation when it comes to candid moments.  A recent trip that my family and I took to the east coast was no different.  There were many destinations and tourist attractions along the way, but one place stands out from the rest.  From the minute we pulled into our resort in Williamsburg, Virginia everyone was impressed.  Lush accommodations and sprawling architecture were the norm, not to mention the ivory spiral staircase which greeted us as soon as we arrived in the lobby.  We were all very grateful to be there after the long drive from Iowa. 

My wife had found this little piece of paradise for us as part of a timeshare program.  In order to stay three days rent free, we had to attend a two hour seminar hosted by the resort sales staff.  I typically abhor this type of thing, but we both agreed that it was only two hours of our life, and well worth it for the free stay.  So we unpacked our car and checked into the condo.  

The next day we showed up at 9:00 a.m. sharp for our meeting.  We were greeted by a nice young man with a Manila folder.  He ushered us over to a table where we quickly exchanged polite introductions.  After asking us some questions designed to figure out what type of vacation we liked best, the game was on.  We were first set in a room and required to watch a twenty minute video.  You know the one: where Bob and Jane Smith go on camera and talk about how life changing and wonderful the resort is.  We were then escorted around one of the model homes so we could see what awaited us for only $300 - $600 per month.  I didn't like those numbers.  I don't think that mattered however, as our tour guide didn't miss a beat.  

I exchanged glances with another couple across the hallway during our little walk-about.  I think they were on the same type of tour because the man's facial expression matched my own.  Both of us wanted nothing more than to leave this place immediately and begin our real vacation.  I gave him the all knowing wink as we walked by. 

The two hour sales pitch quickly turned into four hours, and the more often I said "no", the longer the tour went.  When it finally became clear that we weren't going to buy a condo, my wife and I were shown out of the building via a small back door (out of public view no doubt).  I secretly wondered if we were going to be forced into some type of vehicle with tinted black windows and whisked away to a special room for guests who didn't cave into the pressure.  No matter, it was finally time to hit the beach!

This engaged my mind however, and I thought about how many other things in our world might inspire this type of suspicion?  We are always asking "what's the catch?"  If you go to an amusement park or a museum for example, you are forced to exit through the gift shop.  If you visit the used car lot looking for a vehicle - you are often sized up in the first five minutes by the salesman.  

This produces inside of us a hard, cynical edge I think.  After a while, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone began to resemble a well dressed man with a manila folder, or a used car salesman.  Advertising is a billion dollar industry in our country.  Television commercials nowadays must be brighter, louder, and more shocking in order to capture our attention.  Always a sales pitch, and always a catch. 

What about when we turn to the arena of spiritual things?  Do the same rules apply?  Must we approach every spiritual truth claim with the same dogmatic mistrust?  I would say a degree of prudence is usually wise at any given moment, but what if there really are  churches out there that don't just want your money?  What if there is actually a holy book that can change your life for no money down?  

I often think about the promises of Jesus in the Bible.  Love him or hate him, the one thing you cannot do is maintain an impartial distance regarding the things he says.  In fact, Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow..."  And the words of Jesus of Nazareth are certainly no exception to this.  Try reading the Sermon on the Mount for example, without being changed in some way.  

But then there is the good news of the Bible itself.  It claims that we can be saved from our sins.  That there is much more to life than just this world.  It would appear that the promise of salvation has no catch.  But it does have a cost.  That cost was described to us in all four Gospels.  It is the fact that Christ was crucified for our sake, and that he took our punishment upon himself.  You see, even this cost was paid by someone else on our behalf.  

In a matter of speaking, it appears we really can stay rent free in the timeshare condo after all.  No monthly cost, and no twenty minute video.  The only requirement is that we decide for ourselves in His favor.  They used to call this 'making a decision for Christ.' 

Romans 10:9 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  It is kind of scary also, because there isn't a catch here either.  It simply says this, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  It's hard to find fault with this type of divine simplicity.  God offers a gift, we demonstrate acceptance through what we say and what we believe - and He will do the rest.  No trial period or up front deposit necessary.  

If the young man at the resort had this type of promise waiting for me, the end result may have been different.  One of my greatest fears is that many will miss the forest for the trees when it comes to God's offer of salvation.  People may view it with the same type of suspicion we are so used to applying elsewhere.  They may invoke cynicism instead of acceptance.  In short, I worry that many will miss the proverbial boat.

God is good, and He is patient.  But He will not wait on us forever to make a decision.  It's time to think seriously about Romans 10:9.  A sales pitch without a catch will invite either skepticism or gratitude.  When it comes to God, I believe gratitude is usually the best option.



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