Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Great Exchange

Several years ago, I had the privilege of traveling through parts of Europe with the AACS Madrigal Singers. It was the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe’s history. Europeans are not typically prepared for hot weather. In fact, I was told to pack spring rather than summer clothing, since early summers were typically rather cool. Big mistake. The heat never ended. It was hot all day and into the night. The hotels were not air conditioned. Neither were the places we visited. There were no fans. There were not even screens on the windows.

And there was no ice. Not one cube on the continent. At least that I saw. Not even at McDonald’s!! One evening while we were in Bern, Switzerland, I came down with a stomach flu. Sick as a dog, I lay on the hot bed in the hot room with only a lukewarm wet washcloth to help keep the fever down. I was miserable. Finally in desperation, I limped down to the lobby to beg for ice. I would have sold my firstborn for a measly bucket of ice. I asked the girl at the desk. She said, yes, of course they have ice. She would have to go down to the basement to get it. After finding someone to cover the desk, she disappeared for 15 minutes. I didn’t mind. It was worth the wait to finally have those precious squares of frozen water in my possession. She came back all smiles. Then handed me two ice cubes in a paper cup. They were melted before I even got back to my room.

With all of the heat, water was very important. Many of the public faucets had signs that we were not to drink the water. So we paid the price of bottled water to stay hydrated. Two of my sons were with me on the trip. I was providing all three of us not only food money but bottled water money as well, which turned into a respectable sum by the time the trip was over. My husband emailed me about half-way through the trip. Online he had been watching our bank account shrink as our days in Europe continued. “What in the world are you spending so much money on?” he queried. I emailed him back that we were drinking a lot of water.

The real problem was that the exchange rate for the American dollar vs. the Euro was $.85 on the dollar. So even though I would electronically withdraw $100, I would receive $85. Prices were not cheap, either. So financially, it was a lose/lose situation.

We celebrate Easter this week. What we commemorate on Resurrection Sunday is another uneven exchange, much more lopsided than a Euro for a dollar. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this exchange, God swapped His righteousness for our sin. A pretty great deal, if you are the sinner. God definitely got the short end of the stick.

Once we received righteousness from God, we got quite a few other benefits in this exchange. We exchanged our slavery to sin for freedom in Christ (Romans 6:6-7). Our fear of God’s wrath was traded for perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3; Romans 8:6) The certainty of spiritual death was exchanged for eternal life (Romans 6:23). Christ became poor so that through His poverty we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Sin for righteousness. Slavery for freedom. Wrath for peace. Death for life. Poverty for riches. For us, a win/win proposition.

But unlike the exchange of currency in Europe, dollars for Euros, we brought nothing to the table. We could try on our own to be righteous. No good. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our attempts at being righteous are like a filthy garment to God. Like old, smelly gym socks stiff with grime and sweat. Fortunately for us, God saw our predicament and provided a way out. And so we have the Great Exchange. A great deal for us. But it cost God everything.

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