Friday, 3 July 2009

The ultimate prize

Everyone loves a prize. A child's reward for taking part in something - or for good behaviour - lights up their eyes like the wattage has just been cranked up to 11. And millions buy National Lottery tickets each week for the chance to live their dream(s). But how about competing for "salvation"?

Kanal T, a Turkish TV channel, are about to commence on a new gameshow that offers salvation to 10 atheists, each of whom meet a Muslim imam, a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist monk - who themselves will attempt to persuade these atheists to convert to their particular religion. The reward for any that do will be a visit to that religion's holy site(s).

"Contestants will be judged by a panel of eight theologians and religious experts prior to going on the show to make sure their lack of faith is genuine," says the blurb. So why would they want to take part in the first place? Because they're hoping to find there is a God after all? For starters, that would prove to me that everyone has a desire deep within them - even if it's suppressed to the max - to search for God. And the whole concept has the potential to be staged and false in the first place. I'd wonder how genuine any 'conversions' would be. Why not seek out your local religious leaders in the first place? Oh, it's because you might get a free holiday out of it, that's right...

But you know what? Something else strikes me. Everything in this world is about receiving because of what we do. The kid being rewarded for good behaviour; the certificate for passing an exam or a course; the pay-rise for working well. And yet the Gospel - that Jesus paid the price which we in our selfish, lost position never could, and lives again that we might be freed from sin and from death - is all about a little word called 'grace'. That little word - a nuclear bomb of 5 letters - explodes all notions of self-worth or achievement. Nothing you or I can do will change how God saves us. No matter how hard I strive to do good works, or to please Him, or to get His attention; nor how little I think about Him during my day, or how much I let Him down. Nothing changes His love for me. Nothing warrants my salvation. Nothing builds up 'credit', or puts me ahead of anyone else. He did it for free. He did it for me. Because He loves me.

That's the ultimate prize.

(You can read about the gameshow in more detail here)

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