“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NLT).

If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve heard many sermons based on this verse. Even if you haven’t been in church much, you’ve probably seen it on billboards. The first part has been painted on signs and carried around at protests and at the end of parades. It’s supposed to impress on people the seriousness of sin and scare everyone into repentance. Doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?

The second part of the verse is the good news everyone needs to know: sin is serious but Christ already took care of it and it no longer has any power over us. Life in Christ is free! It’s a gift! No strings attached, just reach out and take it. The problem is some Christians still don’t quite get it and that’s why the first seven words of the verse keep appearing on signs and in sermons. All of human experience tells us nothing is free, there are always conditions and buyer beware. Everyone: God isn’t like that! When God gives a gift, it’s totally and unequivocally unconditional. Now that would make an eye catching billboard.

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