The other day I read an article titled "How to become a Christian" by Billy Graham. I was actually quite impressed. I thought it was good and I couldn't find a single thing I disagreed with. (This must mean I'm a Christian after all, despite the fact that some probably think Billy Graham should have inserted a disclaimer: "unless you're a Mormon, in which case this won't work for you").
I especially liked how he described Christ's free gift of salvation. Naturally, we don't pay anything when we receive a gift. The giver of the gift pays for it and we receive it joyfully, ever grateful for the giver of the gift. Graham writes:
"The word grace means 'undeserved favor'. It means God is offering you something you could never provide for yourself: forgiveness of sins and eternal life, God's gift to you is free. You do not have to work for a gift. All you have to do is joyfully receive it."He then goes on to talk about how to demonstrate commitment back to Christ as a response to the free gift of grace. (We Latter-day Saints would also have more to say about how to appropriately respond to Christ's grace, namely, through covenant). But in short, I think it was simply an excellent article.
The next morning I was reading to my daughter. The book she chose was "You Are Priceless", a simplified version of the Parable of the Bicycle that Stephen Robinson teaches in his book "Believing Christ". The father in the story sees a broken-hearted daughter who realizes that her 61 cents isn't enough to purchase the bike she desires more than anything else. So he tells her to give him all that she has (in this case 61 cents), a hug and a kiss, and he'd buy the bike for her.
A empathetic light bulb went off in my head. I began to see why some Christians could have a problem with that analogy. They might mistakenly think that Mormons believe we help pay for or contribute to our salvation. I also realized that some Mormons do have the impression that we must somehow pay for part of the free gift of salvation--that our works somehow contribute to our salvation. But these folks misunderstand what the Parable of the Bicycle (not to mention our own Scriptures), actually teaches.
Those 61 cents should not be understood as a partial "payment", because salvation is a free gift. It should be understood as a representation of "giving our all"--our commitment--to the Savior (who does 100% of the saving). We give our hearts back to the Lord in gratitude.
For those who think I'm twisting what Stephen E. Robinson was teaching, he himself made a clarification in "How Wide the Divide?" when pressed on this issue by Craig Blomberg. He responds:
"In my parable of the bicycle, "sixty-one cents" is symbolic of our inability to earn our own salvation and also of the commitment in principle required of the saved. The believer who has only forty-one cents, or twenty-one, or eleven--or none--is still justified if he or she holds nothing back. It is not the quantity, but the commitment that matters. Without a commitment that translates into behavior, we are not saved. With such a commitment, be it ever so small at first, we are." (pp. 222-223)