The Promise of Grace

He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
– Luke 23:43 (NRSV)

What a promise! I cannot even begin to imagine the joy in my heart to be able to hear those words spoken by Jesus to me. And yet, whenever I hear this story, the selfish little girl inside of me raises her head and says, “Hey, wait a minute. The thief gets to go to Heaven with Jesus? That’s not fair!” This is the same feeling I get when I am reminded of the parable of “The Laborers in the Vineyard” from the Gospel of Matthew (20:1-16). Why do the guys who show up at the end of the day get paid the same amount as the guys who have been working their butts off since sunrise!?! It just isn’t fair. I suppose, that’s why it’s beautiful.

God’s grace isn’t about fair. God’s grace isn’t about who has been the best little girl in the world. God’s grace isn’t about earning His love. God’s grace is simply about God’s equitable love for all human beings. So, if the fact that God loves me just as much (no more and no less) as He loves the guy who just robbed a feeble old lady at gunpoint bothers me, I’m the one who needs to check my balances. God is certainly not at fault here. In fact, when I stop and look back over my life, I will be the first one to say that I’m eternally grateful that this is how God’s grace works. But when it comes to fairness in the workplace, at home, or in society, I tend to get tripped up over and over again by my own self-seeking attitude.

When I think of the person who doesn’t have to work but still has all the best material things simply because they inherited a fortune from their successful grand-parent, my teeth automatically clench in jealousy. When I think of the guy who makes more money than I do for doing less work, I can actually feel my blood boil and move more rapidly through my veins. When I realize my friend’s partner is significantly more thoughtful than my partner, I feel like crumbling to the ground and throwing a temper-tantrum. When will it be my turn to have a windfall of cash? When will I get the respect I deserve at work? When will my partner notice all the selfless things I do in a day and think about me first for once? When, God? When?

The questions I really need to ask myself when I am feeling this way are these: Why am I so envious of someone else’s good luck? Am I doing a good job at work every day just to get recognized for it? Do I do selfless things for my partner only because I want to receive the same treatment back? Perhaps my focus is skewed as I sit in self-pity. Perhaps my focus needs to remain on the promise that Jesus made as He died on the cross for me and every other person in this world: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” In speaking those words to the thief hanging beside Him, Jesus was promising all of us that His grace goes beyond who we are in this world. His love for us is something we will never be able to truly understand. For as we slayed Him, He willingly died to save us. Then, as He was suffering a slow and agonizing death, He made us feel better with this promise of Paradise. When I remember that and take it into my heart, whether or not this life is “fair” can’t even enter my mind.


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