Links Daily Devotional

What We Deserve, What We Get

…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10, NIV)

I spent Monday morning spectating at a college tournament.

It was typical golf. From bad drives came miraculous recoveries and tap-in birdies; perfect tee shots were followed by ugly wedges and three-putt giveaways. What a dumb game we play, where what we deserve is rarely what we get!

We call it dumb, of course, because there is an economy of deservedness buried in our psyche. Spelled out, we would put the idea in these words: “Life should be unfailingly fair. When I do good, I should receive good in return. When I do ill, I should receive bad in return. Measure for measure, without a hiccup.”

You might recognize two principles in play here. The first is karma, the Hindu and Buddhist teaching that what comes to us in life is a direct result of what we have done in the past, even in a previous existence. We might not be able to draw direct lines from this good deed to that favorable circumstance, or from this bad action to that punishing outcome, but we should recognize generally, this teaching goes, that we get what we deserve, according to our actions.

The second principle is the idea of justice. Particularly, justice dispenses appropriate punishment to those who have done wrong. We don’t send drivers of illegally parked vehicles to prison, but we do require them to pay a fine, and we call this justice.

So what of sin? And here we lump together sins of omission (what we might call accident or neglect) and sins of commission (what we might call purpose and intent). That is, there are “big sins” and “little sins” in our mind. Moreover, there are sins not only of word (say, insults or lies) and of deed (say, thievery or adultery), but also sins of thought (wanton lust, envious covetousness, hatred, etc.). But however you classify it, everything that discounts, disobeys, or dishonors God—or the “others” he has commanded us to love—this is sin.

We are, certainly, all guilty of sin. Sin as a nature has resided in us since birth; sin as an activity started not long thereafter and continues to this time. Daily, perhaps hourly, we say, do, and think things that deserve justice. All religions know this. So they either demand atoning acts for our sin or encourage a new resolve to live a better life and undo the bad karma.

And then there is grace. Dropped into the midst of all our sin, grace comes on the striped back of our Lord. Grace bears the weight of justice for us. Out of love, Jesus went to the cross, because it was the only way to undo the penalties we deserve for our sin. By his death, our transgressions are removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

In the economy of grace, we do not get what we deserve, for Christ took those just deserts upon himself. Go ahead and sing it, “Amazing!”

Jeff Hopper
April 15, 2015
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