Justice or Grace?

Justice or Grace?


The story is told of two small county judges both got arrested for speeding on the same day. Rather than call the state Supreme Court for a visiting judge, each agreed to hear the other's case.

The first judge took the bench while the second stood at the defendant's table and admitted his guilt. The sentencing judge immediately suspended both the fine and costs.

They switched places. The second judge admitted that he was speeding, too. Thereupon, the first judge immediately fined him $250 and ordered him to pay court costs.

The second judge was furious. "I suspended your fine and costs, but you threw the book at me!" He fumed.

The first judge looked at him and replied, "This is the second such case we've had in here today. Someone has to get tough about all this speeding!"

Here's a question for you -- which do you prefer, justice or grace? If we're being honest with ourselves, we prefer justice when someone else has done something wrong, and grace when we have done something wrong. Admit it! You see someone speeding or running a red light and you think to yourself, I wish a policeman would pull him over and give him a ticket! But, if you get pulled over for a traffic violation, you are praying for the policeman to show grace as he walks up to your car.

Jesus recognized this tendency of ours in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). A man hired some workers in the morning. Then he hired some more at noon, more at 3:00 p.m., and even more at 5:00 p.m. But when it came to the end of the day, all of the workers received a full day's pay.

"When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.'" (Matthew 20:11-12).

It bothered them that the owner was being "unfair", because he treated others with grace. And that's what bothers us most -- grace isn't fair. We want to believe in karma ("if you do good, good things will happen to you; if you do bad, bad things will happen to you") because that's what's fair, that's what's right, that's what's just. But as U2 sings in their song, "Grace", "[Grace] travels outside of karma".

We can live with that as long as we are the one being shown grace. But as the owner said in Jesus' parable, "Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?" (Matthew 20:15).

Let me leave you with a challenge -- May we desire for grace to be shown to others as much as we want it to be shown to us!

Alan Smith Innisfil, ON, Canada

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