When you have multiple children you experience something that those who either have one child or no children rarely experience on the daily. I suppose if you’re a school teacher or work with children you probably experience it a lot as well. It’s the “that’s not fair” mantra. It’s almost as if they think by saying it out loud it is going to change their circumstances or make you thing differently about whatever it is they’re complaining about. One sibling got to do this, or one sibling got away with this or even, you never made them do that. It’s almost as if we are wired in such a way so as to make sure we are all equal for good or ill.
A little over a week ago I wrote a scathing review of the state of the evangelical church in America. And although I still feel that way about their unhealthy relationship with right wing politics, I can’t help but explain myself a bit. You see it comes from a place of empathy. And it comes from a place of grace as well. I truly believe the God of Grace makes space for all of us in His story and Kingdom, but sometimes I feel like we forget to make that same space for each other (I’m definitely guilty of this). And both of those lines of thinking aren’t fair.
One of my favorite parables in scripture is the parable of the Vineyard owner (notice the title has nothing to do with the workers) in Matthew 20. The owner goes out and hires workers throughout the day and then at the end of the day pays them all a days wage…even those hired at the last hour. And of course the first workers are infuriated and decry him saying,” These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ – Matthew 20:12. You see these first workers understood how unfair it was for the Vineyard owner to do what he did. And they struggled with reflecting that same grace to their fellow laborers because of their expectations…not the expectations of the owner.
I guess that’s where I am today. Grace is so wide and deep and encompassing that it really is unfair. It’s unfair for me to hold myself to the understanding of who should and should not receive this grace. It’s unfair for me to think I even know the standard for what it means to be recipients of this grace. It’s unfair for me to ever not make space for those who do receive it regardless of what I think they’ve done to achieve it or what they’ve done to miss the mark. And it’s unfair for me to think that because people’s values don’t align with mine that somehow they aren’t worthy of it as well. God’s grace is unfair. But, it’s not unfair to think that I should treat people in accordance with that grace. This is why the justice of God’s kingdom turns this world upside down. As the parable closes we hear these words, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last”. Or as the excellent songwriter Matt Thiessen once put it, “But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair”. So I’ll just close with my children’s mantra “That’s not fair” and do my best to live into it.