Sunday, January 8, 2012

Grace or justice?

Jan. 8, 2012

Hello, friends,

You remember this idea of seeing old things in new ways that I wrote about last week? Unfortunately for bloggers, it is difficult to deny that you said something when it can be seen plain as a post sitting in last week’s blog.

It’s true. I said it: “I do not expect a radical reformation of character in which sin and shortcomings—my own or those of others--will disappear with the 2011 calendars.”

God must have read that blog sometime during this past week. At any rate He had an opinion He decided to share with me. Here is what happened.

This week my friend had a birthday, a special marker birthday. During her birthday week young friends from out of state came to celebrate the New Year with a ski holiday. Presuming from prior experience that they could assume “free” housing and board from her hospitable self, they made plans that centered on their recreation, and, so far as my friend knew, included only cursory verbal recognition of her birthday.

On the last evening of their time together with her, they planned a dinner out, with the clear expectation, so far as my friend knew, that she would pick up the check for all of them.

What?!!~!” I squawked on hearing about these alleged plans. “They expect you to take them out to dinner to celebrate your birthday?”

My friend listened patiently to my fuming for a bit. Then she smiled and said quietly, “Well, I’ll admit it’s not very thoughtful on their part, but it’s something I choose to do.”

The conversation passed on to other things, but later I recognized that at the time I had cherished a smug sense of secret self-righteousness when I thought about the birthday gift for my friend that that I had already stashed in my stairway storeroom.

Being theologically logical, some of you have already raised a question in your minds: “Why did God want to talk to you about your present for your friend? Wasn’t that a good thing?”

Yes, it was. But—

But what if we focus on looking at an old thing (the joy and responsibility of gifting a friend at a special time) and seeing this action from a new angle? That goal, as you will have already guessed, was the reason that God wanted to discuss my gift-giving with me. I am both glad that God appears to approve of my New Year's goal, and a bit startled by the promptness and directness with which He has entered into my program.

God’s first suggestion to me (and I in turn to you) was that I re-read one of Jesus’ stories, and to read it in a number of different translations. You can find this story in Matthew 20; the story centers around public responses to a man who both paid wage-earners fairly, AND gave generously to those who did not earn what they received.

In the weeks ahead I plan to think with you about the ways in which our understanding of the giving-receiving process impacts the ways in which we shape expectations and responses in relationship.

Thinking with you about the old treasure of grace (both given and received) examined in the context of our hunger for continuous fee-free receipt of those things we believe we need and want.

See you next week.


1 comment:

  1. eagerly awaiting this thought provoking idea. as long as God doesn't convict me of MY issues. ;)