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COUNTRY PASTOR: Justice, mercy and grace

"Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what

we don't deserve."

Just about all of us go through the day with a basic idea that we get what we deserve. Experience gives plenty of reason to support this. When we plan well and work hard, things go better than when we don't. We expect justice.

Because this is true, however, there is a huge temptation to also believe that we deserve what we get. This idea is tempting because it promises to give a simple explanation for what happens to people; and we all want to feel that things make sense.

Unfortunately, that is simply ludicrous. To begin with, we don't deserve to have life itself. We did nothing to be born. That was controlled by our parents, and they didn't even have us in mind at the time. Further, we have almost no control over the body, family, community or environment in which we are placed. Like a flea on a camel, we get carried along if we just hang on.

It also is stupidly judgmental to think that we deserve what we get. It makes us blame the one who is down, and credit the one on top. Reflect upon how society tends to condemn the poor,

blaming even those who suffer obvious disadvantages. And likewise, we tend to entitle the rich;

justifying such great inequality as when the average American CEO earns four hundred times

more than the company employees. In America, 10 percent of the population owns 66 percent of the wealth. They deserve that much?

No wonder most of us are angry, anxious or depressed. We are measuring ourselves and others

with a ludicrous, impossible standard.

Labor Day, about a week ago, was a time to celebrate the dignity of productive work, and the rewards that we receive from it. As we think about employment and economics, we also should

be reminded how only a small part of our life is under our control. Knowing this, we are still

encouraged to seek justice, so that we all get a fair reward for our labor and abilities. But even

more, we are commanded to seek mercy for all who suffer; working to overcome the causes of

inequality and injustice.

Finally, we are challenged to accept grace; trusting that the vast majority of blessings in life are far beyond our control or merit. Life is a gift from God, presented to us through an infinite variety of channels—most obviously through our parents who gave us life in this world, and most importantly through our brother, Jesus Christ who gives us life eternally.