It’s super easy to come up with a list of people who deserve a pat on the back. We like to think of ourselves as skilled connoisseurs of warrant, able to pick out the most deserving person in a crowd. We can see through the fanfare and point to those people who have secretly overcome obstacles and, despite setbacks, continue to thrive. We’re masters at knowing the whole story and celebrate success in others with ease. Every day, social media in Chestermere is awash with stories of kindness, encouraging words, and hope.
Or maybe not so much.
Instead of being good at finding those who deserve a hug, our culture has become adept at finding those who “don’t deserve the time of day!” We’re much more deft at spotting the jerk who was driving like a ‘maniac,’ or the teens who were riding their bikes here and there, or the kids making all that noise, or that good-for-nothing who makes everyone crazy. These sentiments may not be expressed face-to-face, but one scan of social media and the critical heart of our city is evident. “He’s a waste of time,” “she is a no-good-you-know-what,” and “they should just pack up and move away!”
We may be judges of merit, but not in the way we hope to be.
Many who are eager to complain, yell, or angrily pounce on any perceived illness in their neighbourhood actually want what we all want – a good, healthy, thriving, beautiful city. They want people to drive carefully, kids to respect others, and dogs to stay where they belong. Yet there is one axiomatic truth we often forget: grace begets grace. If we do not start from a place of grace, chances are we will not end in a place of grace.
Grace means that we show unmerited favour towards our neighbour. We set aside our masterful skills at determining who is deserving and who is not, and find ways of showing kindness and relational concern for everyone. We treat others better than we are being treated. ‘Unmerited’ is a very hard word. We find that so few people merit our kindness, that’s why we seldom give kindness to strangers. Yet grace says that even those who don’t deserve our favour, get it anyway.
When we show grace, this unmerited favour, to people around us it produces a culture of grace. Grace begets grace. The things we all want to thrive and take root in our city come as a result of grace. Face-to-face grace transcends justice in that it goes further, faster, and is more lasting than an angry letter or a vindictive gesture ever could become.
But giving grace does more than change the culture of our city, it transforms deeper and farther than our relationships with others. Grace also changes us. Becoming people who show unmerited favour to others becomes a practice that makes us into new people. By showing grace to others we begin to live graciously with ourselves. We judge ourselves less harshly and find peace and joy in ways we may not expect.
The ‘Power of Unmerited Favour’ offers what we need as a city; neighbours who offer grace even when others do not deserve it. When we live with this posture we plant the seeds for the future that we all want, and can create, together.