I have a wonderful old leather bound book published in 1924 entitled “One Hundred and One Famous Poems.” Sitting down last evening to enjoy this collection of classics I came upon one called, “Gradatim” by Josiah Gilbert Holland. The very first verse caught my eye. He wrote, “Heaven is not gained at a single bound; but we build the ladder by which we rise from the lowly earth to the vaulted skies, and we mount to its summit round by round.”
“Ah,” I thought, “how very wrong he is.” Heaven is indeed gained in a single bound. He has confused character development with salvation. If he is speaking of character development he is absolutely right. Godlikeness is a daily process of small victories and set backs that require us to try again. Indeed we do mount toward personal perfection one rung at a time.
However, salvation is not the fruit of character perfection. Salvation, heaven and eternal life are a gift from God. Paul declares in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Gifts are not earned. Gifts are presented to us by another who has paid for them. Gifts are an expression of appreciation, or even better, of love.
Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to woo us and when we yield to that love we do indeed reach heaven with a single bound for once the gift is given it is ours to keep.
Written by Roger Bothwell on August 4, 2002
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453