“When things happen to you, when you go through circumstances, it’s God’s way of calling you to respond to Him. How will you respond? Will you respond in faith and love? But more than that, when God is working in you He’s also working on everyone around you. He’s asking them to respond to Him through your situation and asking them to respond to Him through how your situation affects them. Will they respond in faith and love? When an unwed girl gets pregnant, God is calling the girl to respond in faith and love, and He is calling everyone around her to respond in faith and love. When a man goes bankrupt, God is calling him to respond in faith and love, and He is calling everyone around her to respond in faith and love. Whether you encounter the rich or poor, the wicked or the righteous, the foolish, the wise, those different, the question is, how will you respond, regardless of how anyone else responds, will you respond in faith and love?
– from my notes on what my dad, Joey Bonifacio, told me.
The sun was dying outside my apartment on this late Saturday afternoon of a very stressful week. To say business was bad was an understatement. My business was dying, and dead to many experts who had seen it. But I was fighting on and fighting hard, applying my obsessive study and disciplined effort to each day’s challenges. Anyone who has owned a business knows the difficulties of running one, particularly during crisis. Being my dad’s son has the extra pressure of having to succeed (or fail) in front of more people. I prefer being able to do things privately.
Anyway, business was bad.
But my mind was not on my business that Saturday afternoon. It was on another concern, something more serious, something so serious it risked putting a serious wedge between me and one of my most important relationships, my relationship with my dad.
We had just met earlier, and his words still rung in my head, “If you go through with this, you’re on your own. I can’t help you. You’ve made it impossible for me to help you.”
And he wasn’t trying to be mean. Yes, he was angry, but I was in the wrong. He couldn’t help me.
I remember driving home as if in a trance and somehow floating up to my apartment, landing on my bed and just staring blankly, the thought of the one person who had always been a constant pillar of strength and support throughout my childhood telling me “you’re on your own”. I never thought I could ever do anything so bad that would bring that kind of rejection, that my own father would refuse to help me. But I had.
It was a dark dark dark, loneliest of feelings. It was painful in a heart caving sort of way. It was a feeling of such hollowness, such emptiness, that it was extremely painful. Man was never meant to live on empty. Yet because of years of hardened determination I did not cry. In a way I had forgotten how.
With nothing much to do, I opened my Kindle to go through my daily list of things to read and continued on a book by Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him Savior, that read:
“But when God turned His head, that was more than He (Jesus) could handle.”
It was from the story of the crucifixion. Jesus, after withstanding everything, torture, mockery, betrayal, injustice, without caving, could not handle His primary relationship turning from Him.
Why did God turn?
Because Jesus had taken our sin. Jesus who was perfect and enjoyed perfect love for His Father, took on all of man’s sin and became an abomination to His Father.
By taking all our sins, Jesus became something so bad, that God, His Father, had to reject Him.
It was the perfect thing to read at that moment, me, reeling from my own mistake and rejection, finding solace in the story of Christ’s rejection…
… His rejection for me. And He had done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve the rejection, like I had, yet He was rejected.
That’s when I felt something inside break and tears started to roll down my face. And I could hear a gentle whisper, “I know your pain. I know what it feels like to be so abominable to my Father that He rejected me.”
And then I understood His love in a way I never have – and it made everything worth it. The shame, the pain, the rejection, the complication was all of a sudden worth it, not because they’re good, they were terrible, but because it led me closer to Christ.
For those who know the Gospel, for those who read the Bible, we know that the story ends well, that Jesus rose victoriously and defeated sin once and for all. But on this Black Saturday it’s good to reflect the price He paid, not just a physical price but infinite rejection, and we all know how painful even small rejections can be.
When I think about the cost I am led to believe that Christianity can’t be just about making our material dreams come true. God’s Son doesn’t die just so we can have kids with high grades, celebrity this and that, mansions, and cars, and food we’re too fat to eat, clothes filling overstuffed closets, bank accounts filled with fiat paper, and security in probabilities and algorithms. Did God’s Son really die for something so temporary, so shallow? Did He die simply to give us all one fine day? That’s an incredibly self-centered and prideful way to see things, to think that God’s Son’s life is payment for me to enjoy man-made dreams.
No. No one pays millions for a piece of trash. We pay millions for treasured things. When I think about the cost, about the price He paid, the ultimate price, I think about the ultimate gain: love.
1 Corinthians 13 says “the greatest of these is love.”
Ultimate cost paid, ultimate treasure gained.
What did God stand to gain from paying this price?
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son.”
You and me. That’s the crazy part.
Romans 5 says:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Every time I read this I always find myself asking, “Why?” It just absolutely makes no sense.
But now that I have a better idea of what love is about, particularly a kind of love I observe with my brother, Joseph, and how he and his wife are crazy about Philip who has not done anything much more than depend on them for everything, I am reminded of a quote by a popular author I don’t exactly read often:
One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.
– Paulo Coelho
Could it be that such unmerited favor is upon us, that even in our darkest, our lowest, our emptiest, our weakest, our poorest, we find God Himself with us?
Yes, it could be. And is so.
Black Saturday reminds us of the ultimate price Christ paid that we may enjoy ultimate gain, an eternal love with Him.