I am a hard-working man mostly because my dad gave me no choice early on. As I grew older, he allowed me to experience what being lazy could and would produce. Thankfully, my dad was not an “I told you so” type of guy. He allowed me to feel the sting of my own rebellious, wayward escapades without adding his shame and pomposity.
In his wisdom, he knew that all children learn “the hard way” when they insist on doing so and I insisted my share.
In college, my professors assured me that I would “get what I deserved”.
They called it “getting what I worked for”. They were not mean about it, just matter of fact. Sure enough, I discovered the correlation between syllabus, assignment, and fulfillment of lessons.
My first job out of school and my character is challenged once again. The employer had made the paycheck dependent upon job performance. Specific duties, successfully completed, meant everyone could be harmonious and free to do more collaborative efforts. Doing so meant that I could “get what I deserved.”
I noticed a new feeling inside of me. I felt deserving because I had been a good boy for the most part. I did things/life right. I obeyed, complied, and conformed at a level that assured my self-worth and pride. I began to self-identify as “one of the good ones.” I had successfully learned how to “get what I deserved.” What could possibly go wrong now?
There was an area of my life I had all but ignored. It seems that I could do all the right things for parents, professors and employers and still miss the mark. These people had low, if not small, standards of achievement for me. They were easy to please and get off my back. As good as I had become at satisfying other people’s requirements of me, I had become even more skilled at deceiving myself into ignoring my own standards. I did not tell of my hidden prejudices, moments of weakness as I call them. I covered rebellious hatred and resentment. I denied my inner conscience time and again when I would defile it and abuse it. Was I getting what I deserved? If so, it was not comfortable.
“Mercy is not getting what you deserve; Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.”
Pleasing others demands of me, while abusing my own, belittled my supposed superiority of others. Pride was consuming me in the name of self-righteously getting all the good things I deserved because I played the system to my advantage. But the system is rigged. In my darkened sinful heart, I compared myself to others who had made poor choices and were drowning in their consequences. Something inside me said to throw him one of my many life preservers I had achieved from dutiful obedience. At the same time, I pulled back and away from this person as one who was “getting what they deserved”.
Poor, drug infested, alcohol beaten, smelling of their own repetitive foolish demise, I would never toss them my well-deserved, clean, hard earned, and unused life saver. They simply did not “deserve it”. In fact, they were getting what they deserved”, nothing from me but perhaps a good lecture and scolding. Consider how they were hurting themselves and others without remorse. Unforgivable!
Then this guy comes along and disturbs my philosophical posturing of self-importance and presumed innocence. When He speaks, I feign to listen. When He preaches, I sleep in my pew of callous indifference. I feel a need to bash Him and put Him in His place. He speaks this parable destroys me from within.
An Official Who Refused to Forgive
21 Peter came up to the Lord and asked, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me?
Is seven times enough?” 22 Jesus answered:
Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! 23 This story will show you what the kingdom of heaven is like:
One day a king decided to call in his officials and ask them to give an account of what they owed him. 24 As he was doing this, one official was brought in who owed him fifty million silver coins. 25 But he didn’t have any money to pay what he owed. The king ordered him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all he owned, in order to pay the debt.
26 The official got down on his knees and began begging, “Have pity on me, and I will pay you every cent I owe!” 27
The king felt sorry for him and let him go free. He even told the official that he did not have to pay back the money.
28 As the official was leaving, he happened to meet another official, who owed him a hundred silver coins. So he grabbed the man by the throat. He started choking him and said, “Pay me what you owe!”
29 The man got down on his knees and began begging, “Have pity on me, and I will pay you back.” 30 But the first official refused to have pity. Instead, he went and had the other official put in jail until he could pay what he owed.
31 When some other officials found out what had happened, they felt sorry for the man who had been put in jail. Then they told the king what had happened. 32 The king called the first official back in and said, “You’re an evil man! When you begged for mercy, I said you did not have to pay back a cent. 33 Don’t you think you should show pity to someone else, as I did to you?” 34 The king was so angry that he ordered the official to be tortured until he could pay back everything he owed. 35 That is how my Father in heaven will treat you, if you don’t forgive each of my followers with all your heart.” —Matthew 18:21-35
I am left with choices, none of which I find pleasurable.
1-Wallow along on my path that becomes narrower and more bigoted by the hour.
2-Excuse my behavior by becoming even more zealous.
3-Own my personal sins and failures as equal to those whom I push down.
4-Compare my own flaws and sins as less than others who get what they deserve.
5-Realize that, after reading the bible, I may well not even be a Christian after all.
6-Repent of my pride, arrogance, and self-promotion of phony righteousness.
The Christ of Christianity never allows the Pharisee to define what pleases the Father.
THE SINFUL ADULTEROUS WOMAN WHO DOES NOT GET WHAT SHE DESERVES
3 The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd.
4 Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband.
5 The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”
6 They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.
7 They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”
8 Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground.
9 The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.
10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?”
11 “No sir,” the woman answered.
Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.” –John 8:3-11
It doesn’t matter what the behavior is, Jesus offers forgiveness to the repentant, then tells him/her to “go and sin no more.” And who needs forgiveness the most? According to Jesus it is the one who fails to understand the depth of their own sinfulness. Any person believing that their own piety will gain their freedom of conscience and their confidence of eternal destiny in heaven with Christ is sorely misguided. Such a person finds being a Pharisee a delightful experience. Jesus promotes this message to us all:
“7 Don’t condemn others, and God won’t condemn you. 2 God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them.3 You can see the speck in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the log in your own eye. 4 How can you say, “My friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you don’t see the log in your own eye? 5 You’re nothing but show-offs! First, take the log out of your own eye. Then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend’s eye.” –Matthew 7:1-5
Here are biblical truths about Mercy and Grace that can define and direct our interests if we but open our hearts.
1-NONE OF US SHOULD EVER WANT TO GET WHAT WE DESERVE FROM GOD
“The payment (what we deserve) for our sin is death, but God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Romans 6:23
2-NONE OF US EVER DESERVE WHAT WE GET FROM GOD
All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.” –Romans 3:23-24
3-NONE OF US CAN EVER DO ENOUGH GOOD WORKS FOR GOD ON OUR OWN
“Money paid to workers isn’t a gift. It is something they earn by working. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in Him.” –Romans 4:4-5
4-NONE OF US ARE LOVED BY GOD FOR TRYING TO GET THERE ON OUR OWN
“But God showed how much He loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.” -Romans 5:8
5-NONE OF US (true born-again believers) ARE EXCUSED FROM GIVING LOVE AND FORGIVENESS
“God loves you and has chosen you as His own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.” –Colossians 3 :12-14
Hopefully, we will never get or give what we deserve from God. Remember that if you and I can ever be good enough to please God by our own good works and deeds, then Christ was and is of no purpose to us. He died in vain. Then, His is a kindness of no value whatsoever.
“I don’t turn my back on God’s undeserved kindness. If we can be acceptable to God by obeying the Law, it was useless for Christ to die.” –Galatians 2:21
We may still hold each other accountable as Christians, and we must, but without the harsh criticism and demeaning spirit of the Pharisee.
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” –-Galatians 6:1
Let us revel in the truth that a redeemer has made a way for us to find grace greater than our sin. His example to us is how we are to treat our fellow Christian as well as the unbeliever. To offer forgiveness and grace is not to condone and excuse further bad behavior. It is to be human, Christian, and graceful as a default. It is to never assume the role of Savior because that job has been taken.
Julia H. Johnston understood :
GRACE GREATER THAN OUR SIN
- Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!
2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, brighter than snow you may be today.
4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face, will you this moment his grace receive?