Summary: We in our humanity struggle to understand the depth and comprehensiveness of the divine concept of Grace. How can we try and understand this concept better?
We visit the Columbia Asia Hospital occasionally. We always make an appointment for a specific time. I remember one occasion very clearly. We arrived early, the appointment was at 10.45 and we arrived at 10.15 am. We took the registration slips and sat down to wait. Half an hour wait in a hospital waiting room could be very painful, if you have experienced it. We were waiting and soon realised that couple of people who walked in after us were going in to see the doctor while we were still waiting. I confronted the nurse who was manning the station and was politely told that they were “walk in patients” and we will be called in at the “appointed time”. I do not know how you would have felt. But I felt very upset and angry. How could “walk in patients” get priority over us who made an appointment and came in early for the appointment? I would like you to think over this and see how you would have felt..
Let us look at some other instances
You work in a corporate, you have been successful, you are doing well, you get your promotions on time.. you are having a great time.. Then some thing happens. You get news that you are getting a new boss. You inquire, and come to know about the details of your new boss.. you come to know that your new boss is none other than some one who was junior to you five years earlier, had quit the organisation and went to another organisation, and has come back to the same organisation as your boss.. How would you feel about this? I would feel shattered, cheated, I would be crying foul? How can some one who deserted the organisation and decided to come back get priority over you? ….How would you feel?
You are driving down , hurrying to attend your son’s school function. You want to reach there early, so that you can get a seat in the front, so that you can see your son’s act clearly. In your hurry you jump a red light and unfortunately you are caught by the police man. While you are busy, explaining the situation to the police man, you see your neighbor , jumping the red light , and speeding away. The policeman does not bother to stop your neighbor. You finally manage to reach the school and end up on the back rows. You look around and find that the neighbor who jumped the red light and did not get caught, is sitting right in front in one of the prime seats. How would you feel
Don’t we burn inside when such things happen to us? Do we feel that this is unfair? Do these go against our understanding of social justice and fairness?
If you have struggled in these situations, it is perfectly human. What we are struggling to understand is the divine concept called Grace
Now let us turn to the Bible.
Let us look at the Parable of the workers paid equally, narrated in Matthew 20: 1-16. This might be a familiar parable for many of us. The landowner goes out and hires some people in the morning for a full day work and agrees on a daily wage for them. Then later on in the day he goes out again and hires some more people who have been standing idle. He repeats this act a few more times even up to one hour before the close of the day. It is all right upto here. The landowner decides to pay everyone equally. How many of us like that? Especially if we are in the first group hired to do the full day’s work, and have put in the full day’s work as against those who put in just an hours work and get paid equal to us? Is this fair?
Let us look at the best known and most preached about parable of the prodigal son, narrated in Lk 15:11-32. I am sure most us know this parable and have heard many sermons on this. For this morning, I would like you to put yourselves in the position of the elder brother, and see how you feel. Did the elder son get a fair treatment in the whole episode? What would we do if this happens to us?
Or let us look at the thief on the cross, narrated in Luke 23:40-43. This is a common sermon verse during the Good Friday service. What happens here is again , not comprehensible for many of us. Here is a thief who has never lived a righteous life, but confesses and repents literally five minutes before his death, and our Lord promises him a confirmed berth in heaven. If I had followed Jesus through all the difficulties and am a witness to this episode, how would I feel?