So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I had been taught as a child that diamonds came from coal that had been exposed to immense pressure for many thousands of years. I always liked the idea that diamonds, the most sought-after, valuable and hardest substance in the world came from something common, cheap and brittle, a substance that was mostly fit just to throw on the fire.
There is a beautiful spiritual metaphor in that. What do we have to offer God that is not common, cheap and brittle? Our imperfect prayers, our half-hearted sacrifices, time begrudgingly spent on spiritual things—why would God not choose to throw our poor offerings on the fire?
The above scripture passage shows us that the way to please God with our offerings is to offer them in Christ and through Christ. He is the catalyst that makes all things new. It is the pressure of the cross that we carry for his sake and the persistent march up the hill of Calvary that works its science on our offerings. Linking our sufferings to those of Christ gives us hope that what we offer will bear fruit for the kingdom.
This is great news for penitents. We feel called to increased prayer and fasting, to abandon ourselves to Christ and accept whatever he chooses to send our way, to offer all our joys and sorrows to God through Christ. Unfortunately the reality of our offerings often falls far short of our aspirations. But in Christ, we hope and believe that our impure offerings will be turned into spiritual diamonds. Joined to the sufferings of Christ, we trust that our sacrifices win souls for the kingdom and hasten the coming of Jesus in glory. Is there any earthly comfort or treasure that can compare to such spiritual diamonds?
You are probably familiar with the movie Schindler’s List that came out a few years ago. It is a story of a man, Oskar Schindler who had a contract with the Nazis during the Second World War to manufacture arms for them in Poland. He started out as a hardened capitalist trying to get rich by using Jews as slave labor in his factory. He soon realized the horror that the Nazis were perpetrating on the Jews and set out to save as many of them as he could through bribery, trickery and any other means he could dream up.
The movie contains numerous heart-wrenching scenes, but the one that affected me most occurred near the end of the movie. Schindler had saved many hundreds of Jews and escaped to Switzerland with a good number of them. Once he was safe he had time to reflect. In this poignant scene just after crossing the border, he lamented bitterly that he had not saved more of them. He could have sold this trinket or that bauble—each item counting as a life he could have and should have saved. That scene, above all, moved me to tears. I realized that I did not want to come to the end of my life lamenting that I could have done so much more for souls.
The bad news is that all I have to offer for souls are cheap bits of brittle coal. Geologists now say that diamonds probably do not come from coal. But in this case, the science doesn’t really matter. The good news is that God can and does turn coal into diamonds.