“How do you repay someone who saves your life? You never forget him.”
I have often thought of those who’ve been saved from a burning building or any other perilous situation. How do they repay their hero? Of course they are grateful, but no amount of money could ever be sufficient. Unless they follow their hero around for the rest of their lives in order to be there at the exact time he might need saving, they can never repay their champion fully. One story I heard involving a mountain climbing expedition where a hiker was saved by one of his fellow mountaineers was related in this way. The hiker said, “You never forget him.”
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” As the Third Article of Faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I consider this a two-way covenant. The first half outlines what our Savior promises to do—to save us through His sacrifice, mercy and grace. The second half is our part—to be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Some may wonder if this means we are instruments in our own salvation. I would rather think of it as a debt of gratitude to an otherwise unrecompensable act of mercy. Or more simply put, a way to never forget Him.
There is no question in the heart and mind of every true follower of Christ that the atoning sacrifice He made for all mankind was the most supreme act of saving grace. The question does arise, however as to whether or not mankind must do something in return for this gift. It is obvious that we cannot repay the Savior—what He did was something no one else could have accomplished. But does He expect anything from us in return? I believe the Bible points to numerous examples of what He asks of us. A prophet and apostle of the Lord in these latter days, Dallin H. Oaks, stated it this way. “We receive God’s grace because of the Atonement. We can’t raise ourselves from the dead, so the Resurrection is an example of His grace. We can’t purify ourselves from sin, so the Lord’s forgiveness is another example of grace. But before He will forgive us, we must repent—that’s our part, our works.
“Besides repentance, our works also include receiving ordinances, keeping covenants, and serving others. While these works are necessary for salvation, they aren’t sufficient. They are not enough because we can’t live perfect lives, but we can do our best to live righteously. By doing so, we invite the Lord’s grace into our lives and qualify for the gift of salvation.” (March 2005 Ensign)
A Christian author, C. S. Lewis, compared grace and works to the blades of a pair of scissors. Both are necessary. To ask “Are you saved by grace or works?” is like asking “Do you cut with this blade or that one?” We need both blades to make a perfect cut. So as the Lord provides the grace of His atoning sacrifice, we show Him our dedication through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel—a two-way covenant.
No one can comprehend the suffering Christ had experienced both in Gethsemane and on the cross. It is a debt we cannot possibly repay. But like those who have experienced the heroic acts of being rescued from a burning building by a fire fighter or from the grips of a terrorist by a soldier, something changes inside of you when you realize you’ve been saved. You are not the same person you once were. You value your life much more because you have faced death more closely. You never forget your rescuer. You do not look at life the same anymore because of the perspective you have been given. And I would venture to say, you make wiser choices in your everyday life based on your change of heart.
So, too, does a true convert to Jesus Christ have a change of heart, and thus a change of behavior. To become truly converted to Jesus Christ requires that depth of change. To feel an eternal bond that connects your spirit to His is a life-altering experience. Ask anyone who has felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost testify to them of the forgiving power of the Savior’s atonement, the truthfulness of the restored gospel, the saving grace of His mercy and love. Their experiences are personal and undeniable. They are as real to them as the act of being physically saved by a fire fighter or a soldier. More so, even, because the saving power of Christ is eternal.
It is only natural to want to give back to the person who saved your life. In the case of Jesus Christ, we could not possibly make up for what He did. But we don’t have to. He only requires we remember Him in small ways. His life was an example of how we should live—we can remember Him by being more like Him. He demonstrated how we should act—what manner of men or women we should be—even as He is. He led by example in His teachings. His parables were stories of how we should treat our brothers. If He did not mean for us to change our ways, why would He have spent three years of His life in ministry teaching repentance, forgiveness, kindness, and to keep the commandments of God? He even received baptism—a remission of sins—when He had never sinned at all. He was baptized out of obedience, not necessity. He knew baptism was an ordinance that was required for salvation, and so he complied with this ordinance.
In comparison to what He did for us, the Savior does not require much. And when we think how He gave His life for us, the least we can do is remember Him. His end of the covenant was the hard part. Ours is easy—it’s also renewable, each Sunday when we partake of the sacrament. We promise to always remember Him, so that we can have His spirit to be with us. What a beautiful gift He gives us, one we can deeply appreciate if we truly have a change of heart.