Activated - - NEWS - By Gabriel Gar­cía Val­divieso Gabriel Gar­cía Val­divieso is the edi­tor of the Span­ish edi­tion of Ac­ti­vated and a mem­ber of the Fam­ily In­ter­na­tional in Chile.

Around last Easter, I was feel­ing lousy about my­self, think­ing I was fall­ing short of the Gospel ad­mo­ni­tions to love oth­ers and live an un­selfish life. I felt I was car­ing too much about ma­te­rial things and had be­gun try­ing very hard to im­prove.

Then I had a cu­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence while re­turn­ing home in the crammed rush-hour bus. When my wife and I got on, a cou­ple of young men kindly of­fered us their seats. Sally ac­cepted, but not me. “No, thanks!” I said. “You ac­tu­ally look tired your­selves.”

I felt quite smug and con­grat­u­lated my­self for do­ing a good deed, un­til a girl sit­ting next to where I was stand­ing tapped me on the arm. “Sir,”—she sounded ir­ri­tated—“could you please con­trol your bag? It’s been swing­ing and bang­ing me for quite some time.”

So much for my good man­ners! I apol­o­gized but felt ter­ri­ble, like Paul must have when he said: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it any­way.”

As Easter drew closer and I was pre­par­ing the mes­sage I wanted to share with our Bi­ble study group, I was struck by the para­dox of feel­ing con­demned for my im­per­fec­tions when the whole pur­pose of Je­sus’ death on the cross was to save us from our sins and short­com­ings, and em­power us to love God and one an­other.

An­other day, when watch­ing Je­sus’ pas­sion in the movie, Son of God, I sud­denly un­der­stood once again a prin­ci­ple that I hadn’t thought much about for years: at the mo­ment of His death on the cross, Je­sus wiped our slate clean. For the first time in 3 years, I saw how vain my ef­forts were to try to live up to an un­reach­able stan­dard. There He was, nailed to the cross, telling me: “I paid the price for you. Just go and live My new law as best you can. I will help you and work through you.”

The scene was so lib­er­at­ing! Over time, I had lost that sim­plic­ity and con­vic­tion that it’s all by grace and not by works or strug­gles and ex­er­cises in good­ness. It was won­der­ful to be re­minded again that only God is good, and we are just His in­stru­ments.

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