This piece was published in the Sunday Age Faith column on 28 September 2008. It doesn’t appear online so here it is reproduced:
I’ve been realising recently how much I try to impress God. I know I can’t make God love me any more or any less than he already does, but still I try to impress him. It’s like my motivation for doing the right thing is so, when I get to the end of my life, I can say, “See? Look! Look at all the things I did.” And then God will let me in.
As a result of such thinking, Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard is one with which I have struggled over many years. I could never understand why God would treat people like that. What could be the merits in giving those workers who had turned up late in the day and only put in an hour or so, the same money as those who had slaved away all day? I never understood it until writer Philip Yancey pointed out the obvious to me. There was a sense i which I was right to be perplexed at the unequal treatment given out that day, because that’s the whole point of grace. it isn’t fair. It’s not about counting up what we have done. It is about what God has done for us, not what we think we can do for God. Jesus demonstrated that himself on the cross when he said to the thief next to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Grace is not fair. It never can be, for that is its very essence.
I need grace because I am one of those who turns up late in the day and still receives the best that God has. This is the God of the second chance, indeed of the third chance, and the 100th chance. David Meece sang a song years ago in which he cried out, “Seventy times seven. Can you forgive me for all that I’ve done?” The answer is a resounding “yes!!!”, without hesitation and every single time.
If we could catch a glimpse of the amazing grace of God, our lives would be turned upside down. We would realise that no longer do we need to play the games, those games where we say like the 4 year old, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore.” It’s not just kids who do that. We do it when when we’re 4 and we can do it when we’re 34, 54 or 84.
We are all on a journey, and the journey for many of us begins in our heads, and the final destination is deep in our hearts where, once grace is firmly entrenched, we “love because he first loved us.”