The story of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 10) exposes what we understand about the justice of fairness to be folly, and exposes us to a brand new economy – the economy that Jesus operates out of, one of grace that continually gives beyond what can be earned. This passage reminds me that…
- Grace begins at the point of encounter, as God relentlessly approaches us. Even so, a gift unopened is worthless, and the way that we respond to the grace shown to us directly affects our ability to pass it on. The Christian life is a life lived in response to grace; after all, grace is God’s currency.
- The thing that makes grace revolutionary is the very same thing that makes it uncomfortable to experience. Grace offends our sense of fairness; it goes beyond exchange and becomes gift, because grace is inherently unfair.
Christmas is a season to be reminded that Jesus goes beyond fair.
I’m reminded of an episode of The Big Bang Theory that illustrates the breaking of equity in action, and the beautiful transition from transaction to grace.
When you are presented with a gift that you can never repay, when you encounter grace, sometimes all you can do is be thankful.
Perhaps we owe God some hugs.
Christmas is upon us, and as much as the season should be readily reminding me about the birth of Jesus, the immediate image that comes to mind is a radically different one – the annual exchange of $50 gift cards at our extended family gathering.
Yes, perhaps when we were younger there was some fun, with random toys and another yellow shirt from Nan, but now that we are older, nobody is surprised when the envelopes come out. No complications, equal distribution, no judgement as to whether something is good or bad – a supposedly “beautiful” economy of equity for all parties to enjoy. Being a little OCD myself, I can understand the delight, yet it also is a sobering reminder that we rarely give more than we can afford to lose.
It is in this season of Christmas, that the image of transaction comes to the forefront of my mind. I’m reminded of Sheldon proclaiming to Penny in an early episode of The Big Bang Theory,
“You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation!”
I have no doubt you have experienced this before, and you will have your own stories to share. But what I do know is this, a spirit of obligation gives birth to guilt, shame, frustration and even anger. Which raises the question, how can something as pure and selfless as gift giving end up causing so much destruction? Is it any wonder that “gift” derives it’s meaning from the German word for “poison”!
However as followers of Jesus there is a different economy that we can participate in, one that turns the other cheek, or goes a second mile in the face of transaction – the radical, unfair economy of grace.
More coming soon.
The term “free radical” belongs to the field of chemistry, defined by The ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology suggesting:
“Free radicals are everywhere, in the air, our bodies, and the materials around us. They cause the deterioration of plastics, the fading of paint, the degradation of works of art, aging related illnesses, and can contribute to heart attacks, stroke and cancers.
Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. In their quest to find another electron, they are very reactive and cause damage to surrounding molecules.
However, free radicals are also useful because they help important reactions in our bodies take place and can be utilized to manufacture pharmaceuticals, custom-designed plastics and other innovative materials.”
How well does this illustrate the human state one might ask? For in many ways we are all free radicals in the world; we all carry a charge, one that can be positive, at other times negative, and occasionally neutral. Full of potential, for good or for evil.
For me to claim to be a free radical, whether theologically, socially or otherwise doesn’t mean that I am not content, but rather it illustrates my own passion for movement, change, a dissatisfaction with simple maintenance of the status quo, and a desire to witness the kind of shifts that contribute to the ongoing health of life through the process of exploration. I am convinced that to be fully human we need to explore; curiosity appears to be hardwired into us – one only needs to look at the weekly uptake of tabloids and the incessant persistence of TMZ to be convinced of this.
Yet somehow within the sphere of spirituality, some of this curiosity appears to have been lost. We would much rather reach into the lives of others (the places where we are not welcome), than reach into ourselves and do the kind of difficult but necessary inner-work that God has invited us to do from the beginning of time. We would rather people reflect on us, than to dare self-reflect at the fear of what we may be convicted by. The revelation of others is easy to brush aside, but self-revelation has a way of sticking to our soul with a loud voice that we cannot ignore.
Aren’t you curious about yourself? A free radical contends that there is always more to explore.