Forward Today: Grace is not fair

Dear friends in Christ,

I saw a news story this week which could serve as a parable for our times. It’s almost biblical, or maybe it is just that.

It seems that in a certain school district, parents have accrued some debt for not paying the bill for their children’s lunches. That school district has notified parents that it will use the court system to get its money, including, if necessary, taking away children from their parents and placing them in foster care because the parents have neglected their children’s right to food.

In response to these harsh threats, a local man offered to donate money to the school district to wipe away the debt, totaling around $22,000. Surprisingly, the school district has refused the gift, saying that the parents need to pay the debt themselves. (By the way, the school district also explored giving the affected children inferior food for lunch, but was told that such action would not stand up to legal challenge.)

Of course, on a practical level, using the court system to solve anything is expensive for all parties. So one would think the opportunity to avoid the courts—setting aside all questions of morality—would be appealing to a cost-conscious school system. And one notes that the school system is serving a poor community, because starting next year, they’ve qualified for funding to give all children free lunches.

If this were a parable, a preacher might ask some of these questions: What are families being charged for school lunches anyway, in a land of such abundance? Why would a school district choose a harsh solution when a low-cost and merciful solution is available? Why as a society are we so averse to canceling debt? What motivated the man to offer to pay the lunch debts off?

We know at least one answer to the last question. The man grew up poor, and he received free lunches as a child. Feeling grateful, he wanted to “repay” that kindness.

In our culture, we want to make sure people “get what they deserve.” But Christians of all people should know better. Our first impulse should always be mercy, as we know that God merciful to us.

I think if we were able to receive the gift of God’s grace, we would find it easier to offer mercy and grace to others. Because the thing is, I don’t deserve God’s love, and neither do you. No one does. We can’t earn it, and we aren’t worthy of it on our own. And yet God loves us all.

God loves you. God loves me. And God loves the people we don’t like very much or that we’re afraid of. God loves the children whose lunch bills are overdue, and God loves the school officials who want to send kids to foster care because their parents didn’t pay a bill.

Grace isn’t fair. And that’s the beauty of it. Let us all seek to love others as God loves us. Extravagantly. Boldly. Unfairly.

This kind of love changes us, it changes our church, and it will change our world.

Yours faithfully,
Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Image: 12th century mosaic at Hagia Sophia, photo taken by Scott Gunn

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