“”Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matthew 13:45, 46, NASB.
I got this idea from reading Peter Rollins’ little book ‘The Orthodox Heretic’. Once the merchant went and sold all he had, and bought the pearl which he desired, he was otherwise in poverty. It was only of great value if he sold it to a willing buyer, yet if he sold it, he would no longer have the object of his desire. So, in acquiring the pearl, he impoverishes himself to become rich. He becomes a homeless man in tattered rags on the street secretly holding his million dollar pearl. Maybe he will build his life back up, but not without the pearl! If he sells the pearl to acquire money, he no longer has the pearl. It is not that the pearl has value in bringing wealth and luxury to the merchant; quite the opposite. The pearl has direct appeal and beauty in itself that is worth losing all other comforts. As Rollins puts it, only by renouncing his desire for wealth does he discover it.
Pressing this to the message of grace, we have something even more profound! We already have seen that it is not that the kingdom of heaven is like the pearl; if you read this carefully, you see that the kingdom is like the MERCHANT; WE are the pearl. So, God is enamored of us, God has such overwhelming desire, that He impoverishes Himself in order to gain us. Look at this:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8, NASB.
God has impoverished himself to gain us, not in order to use us to gain some further good beyond us. He did not acquire us in order to sell us for something else. There is not something else for Him, some further aim; we are the direct object of His desire. He loves us directly, He sees worth in us as ourselves, He made sure it was costly to Him. We are desirable, His full desire, alone and unadorned by what He can get us to do or how He can get us to change or what hoops He can get us to jump through.
This is perhaps the most incredible miracle of all, that the same God who has the power to speak universes into existence has gone to great lengths to forge a way to make this purchase costly to Himself. He made it be costly. He set the stage to make it cost everything to redeem us, He did it on purpose. He wanted to make it clear that we were important enough to empty Himself, to sell all, to forsake all other comforts. He has shown dramatically that we are of very great worth to Him. Now He is forever standing on the throne as the lamb who was slain. He forever bears the marks of this great cost. He is forever the One who impoverished Himself to gain the great object of His desire – the Church, His bride. When He was resurrected, He could have been healed of His wounds. Instead, He is careful to retain them into the very throne room of heaven. He stands marked with scars, saying in His very body, I have gone to great lengths and great costs to say that I forsake all else for the love of YOU.
Notice this: the pearl did not have to transform itself in order to be desirable. The pearl was beautiful as it stood. God loves us most directly, quite apart from any transformation that could take place. The most important thing in us that God sees as beautiful, is already there. He seeks transformation only as side dressing, and that from an existing and profound love for us that has already impoverished Him to the point of death.
What wondrous love is this! I am honestly undone at the thought of being so greatly desired by Him! who am I? I am the one who is loved by Christ, and that is far more than enough.