My husband is a twin. He and his sister couldn’t be much more different, but as tykes, they spent their days playing and getting into mischief together.

When it was time for supper, one evening, their mother called them to come in, but neither heeded and they continued with their play. When their father returned home, he was ready for his supper and had been looking forward to enjoying a delicious meal with his family. My mother in law is a great cook, so I’m sure there was something delectable waiting to go on the table. When he wasn’t greeted with a knife and fork, he asked where the children were. Of course, my mother in law told him that she had called to them but they refused to come.

In the way that only a dad can, my father in law called to the children and went down the hill to collect them and bring them home. When my husband retells that part of the story, his eyes are always wide and he adds little comments like, “you know this is going to be bad”.

Back at the house and waiting in his room for both punishment and supper, he recalls the dread of anticipation for the spanking that was to come. Not that it was going to be mean or hard, but that it was associated with his dad being disappointed in him and the shame of both disobedience and being caught. Being the eldest, my husband received his discipline (a spanking and a talking to about respect for his mother). Meanwhile, his sister was carefully considering her situation. When her dad came to her room, her wide eyes greeted him with the wisdom of the ages. “Daddy, if I give you my quarter, will you not spank me?”

Even in the tenderness of youth, she believed that she could buy or earn her way into grace and mercy. Quietly, my father in law stepped back, closed the door, and stayed outside her room until he finished laughing. Her precociousness was so sweet in the eyes of her father, but he knew that there was now an even bigger lesson to be learned.

Returning to her room, my father in law dispensed the same discipline to his daughter as he had to his son. In retelling the story, so many years later, he always says that he had to treat them the same way.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about grace, lately, and a passage that has stood out to me is found in the book of Malachi.

Malachi 3:6-10

I the LORD do not change…

“Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“Test Me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it…”

This passage acknowledges that God’s people were disobedient; that they had pulled away from Him, from His authority and from His plan. If you read the whole passage, God accuses them of trying to rob Him by only offering a portion of their tithes. Like my sister in law, the people knew who God was, but thought they could manipulate things to get their own way.

Out of love, God called them on their disobedience.

Malachi 3:2-4

For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men (and women and children) who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings … will be acceptable to the LORD…”

Ignoring the sin in our lives, or living like we can pick and choose which sins are okay, deluding ourselves into thinking that we can earn or buy grace are all such painful choices. When it comes to grace, all God is asking from us is that we are willing to surrender our lives to Him and trust Him to love us.

1 Samuel 15:22

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than a quarter the fat of rams.

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