It’s unfair, it’s unfair, it’s unfair.
How come he got the promotion.
How did she get that car.
How did they afford that house.
It’s unfair, it’s unfair, it’s unfair.
Black Lives Matter, LGBTI+ rights, equal pay, we live in a world where we have come to understand that life is not a fair place to live and that we should strive to make it more just. But justice and equality are different. Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. Justice, on the other hand, is about our behaviour and our treatment of those who are different from us. That, when observed through the lens of justice, this passage teaches us more about God’s love than we care to admit and that once we have seen it we cannot be changed.
God’s love is radical.
If we were to trace the narrative ark of God’s love through our bible, beginning with Adam and ending with the ascension, we cannot but see that God’s love is radical. The biblical narrative is about a divine creator who wants to be in relationship with us. Think back to the Israelites who rejected and turned away from God’s love. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, worshiped idols and failed to hear God’s call. Yet God still provided for them. He provided them Manna to eat, great chunks of food which gave them physical sustenance. He gave them leaders to follow, people who could help reconcile their relationship, and, eventually, he brought them home. No matter how despondent their faith got. No matter how much they moaned and wailed, God still wanted them. He was still jealous for them. He still loved them.
This love does not stop with the people of Israel. It does not stop even when the Israelites turn away from faith and professionalise their worship in the temple. God still yearned for his people, and this was demonstrated through a truly radical act. God came to earth and offered love. God, in human form, offered us a kind of reconciling love that was totally radical. Jesus’ death on the cross was the most radical act of love. It strived to break down barriers and build connection. It called the people of Israel back into loving relationship and it opened our understanding of love to include us.
God’s love isn’t fair.
If you struggle with the concept of God’s radical love this next concept is even more difficult to comprehend. God’s love isn’t fair. When we come to God’s holy table we get a glimpse of this. When we recite the prayer:
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
This prayer is not exactly something one would want to say to God. Yet, these words are prayed by Christians in liturgy before receiving Communion.
In this moment we remember our original sin. We are reminded that we can never be perfect and that it is only by God’s love and grace that we are able to approach the altar at all.
Those words, not only remind us of our original sin but, also remind us that God’s love is open to all. For they take us back to Matthew 8 and the Roman centurion. Jesus, approached by the Roman Centurion who asks for healing for his servant, is so moved by the centurions faith that he offers healing to the servant. In response the centurion says those words we heard a moment ago. But it is Jesus’ response that I want to focus on right now.
‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed…’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith…You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.’”
There is too much going on in this passage for me to unpack it now, but let me say this. The faith Jesus encounters in this moment demonstrates the unfair nature of love. Jesus offers healing to this “servant” even though he is not of the Jewish faith because he encounters true faith in the words of the centurion. Moved by love Jesus offers the healing of the Jewish people to the world. It may seem fair to us, but could you imagine what the Jewish authorities thought?
But, what about us. How do we understand the unfair nature of God’s love. Well, let’s think about the prodigal son for a moment. Once again this is a complex multi-layered story that I cannot unpack fully. But, let me draw your attention to a few things. The obvious focus point, when discussing what is “fair” is to discuss the son who did not receive his inheritance. Who stayed and worked for his father and, in his own words, didn’t even receive a fatted calf. But, I think there is something even more radical going on. Something that we often fail to notice as we are caught up in the story. The younger brother never truly asked for forgiveness. He admits his fault yes, but he never asks for forgiveness, he never says “Father, please forgive me”. He doesn’t need to, the Father has already forgiven him, even before the words are uttered forgiveness is offered. All is forgiven.
That is what the radical nature of God’s love is all about. It has nothing to do with us. It isn’t about what we can earn, or what we receive, but it is about a God who constantly offers us forgiveness, no matter what we do. And, it’s not fair. It’s not fair that we can strive our whole life to live by faith and then our friend, or neighbour, confesses on their death bed and are forgiven. It isn’t fair that God forgives the worst of sinners but we experience suffering even though we have lived our whole life by faith. God’s love simply isn’t fair.
It’s all about grace
That’s the point though, for God’s love isn’t about what is fair, it is a moment of grace. Grace is the free, undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God. It is free and undeserved. It is offered to all, not just a set of people who look and sound like us, but those who we think are unworthy. It is radical. It is obscene. It is the offer of salvation to a Roman Centurion and his servant. It is the offer of love to a child who is spent up and washed out. It is an offer of safety to a people who have wandered aimlessly unable to hear God’s call. Grace is a radical gift that we cannot predict or contain. It is about a radical love. A love which is completely unfair but is available to anyone who wants to come and receive it.