There are more than four thousand colleges and universities in the United States. I’m guessing that none of them heard a commencement address quite like the one delivered at Morehouse College yesterday.
Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor known as the wealthiest black man in America, told the crowd that he and his family would pay off the entire graduating class’s student debt. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse, called Mr. Smith’s generosity “a liberation gift, meaning this frees these young men from having to make their career decisions based on their debt. This allows them to pursue what they are passionate about.”
Mr. Smith’s gift may be worth about $40 million, according to Morehouse officials.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love”
Imagine that you were one of the 396 young men graduating from Morehouse yesterday. I can think of three reasons you might decline Mr. Smith’s remarkable generosity.
You could do so out of a self-reliant determination to pay your debts yourself. You could refuse to feel indebted to Mr. Smith. Or you could consider yourself unworthy of such grace.
Now let’s consider Robert Smith’s gift to the Morehouse graduates as a parable.
The Creator of the universe considers our eternal life worth the death of his Son: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our Father loves us unconditionally: “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39).
God’s love for us is unwavering: “His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26). It “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). It is inclusive: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
In short, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Anything God has ever done, he can still do.
However, for most of my life, I have struggled to accept God’s grace. It’s not that I think I can pay my spiritual debts myself and earn my way into heaven, or that I don’t want to be indebted to God. Rather, it’s hard for me to see myself as worthy of such love.