Forward Today: The Gospel isn’t fair

JESUS MAFA. The Late-arriving Workers, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Dear friends in Christ,

The Gospel isn’t fair. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. One of the reasons I repeat this often is that I need to hear it myself.

We live in a culture that wants us to be very concerned that everyone gets what they deserve. That works, in our cultural message, for those who do good and for those who do evil. In our zero-sum world, it’s important that we keep everything fair – and, again, make absolutely sure people get what’s coming to them.

But Jesus has another way. In the economy of grace, there’s always enough. It’s never too late.

This Sunday’s assigned Gospel reading from brings us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard from Matthew 20. In the story, someone hires day laborers and pays them all the same wage, whether they worked all day or just an hour. Outrageous, right! Unfair! But wait! The day laborers got paid for their work fairly. Why should they care if the landowner gives someone the same pay for an hour’s work?

It’s not too hard to see this same dynamic play out in our time. I’ve heard long-time, faithful church members complain about the “new people” who haven’t earned their right to express opinions. (Yes, I’ve heard this from clergy AND lay people.) But Jesus’ teaching reminds us that “new people” have the same claim on God’s mercy and grace as long-time members who have put in their time.

Someone who finds their way into a life of faith has just as much a claim on God’s love as the person who grew up in church and never missed a Sunday. Someone who has committed grave crimes and then repents is as beloved as the person who never had to face a judge and go into prison.

None of us can rest on our laurels because of some entitlement that we were there first. It’s never too late for God’s grace and mercy. No one, and I mean no one, is beyond redemption.

It’s shocking. Let’s all bask in the shocking, extravagant love of God. And then perhaps we can be quick to share that love with someone who’s yearning for a word of hope.

Yours faithfully,

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Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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