Grace as Injustice (by Brittian Bullock)
I think grace – true grace, the kind that has teeth attached and is worth its salt, actually passes for something else in our culture – injustice.
Here’s what I mean.
Jesus, in envisioning what the kingdom of God is like, tells a story about a treasure being buried in a field only to be stumbled upon by–a trespasser, someone who isn’t supposed to be there at all.
At this point I think whats important to the story isn’t the finding of treasure, but the finder. They are, essentially, a burglar, or a freeloader, or a mooch, or a wanderer, a drifter, an undesirable. At any rate they are the wrong person.
I imagine a different type of story following a good family who owns a farm, they work and they sweat and they bleed, only to scrape by on ends meat. They really never make it. But unbeknownst to them there’s a rare heap of precious stones sitting under the barn. The whole story is building to them discovering it, saving the farm and getting their just rewards for being the nice people who we care about–for being the hero.
Skip to a subplot. An embezzler–or maybe something less white collar–an outright con artist, the sort who has stolen money from old women, ripped of identities and would take a lolly pop from a four year old, is on the lamb. He’s running from the law. Exhausted he pulls into the old farm and creeps into the barn to spend the night. He’s trespassing. And there, he stumbles upon the jewels. The same ones we had been waiting for our hero’s or heroine to find. Him. Of all people. He’s the wrong one. He wasn’t supposed to be here–he wasn’t the one who should have gotten the pay off.
But he did.
And that is the scandal of grace, the inversion of the kingdom. The injustice of grace is that the ones you’d have thought were in really weren’t, and the bad egg’s were, after all, the ones who found friendship and healing and mercy.
Of course this doesn’t have to be a non-zero sum game, everyone can win. I could imagine the drifter fellow leaving a fair share of the jewels before he takes off with the rest
At any rate Jesus concludes his own telling of the story by saying that the trespasser sells everything he owns in order to buy the farm and make off with the treasure. Who knows if the owners got a fair price. Certainly not what it was worth if you’re including the treasure. One way or the other Jesus is challenging how reciprocity works. He’s saying that we are in uncharted territories with God. All bets are off about God’s justice and Gods grace.
The injustice of grace is that we don’t know what we’ll get or who’s getting it…we just know who’s giving…and that, only dimly–but one day, face to face.
Brittian Bullock is an author, speaker/storyteller, and artist who lives in the Portland, OR area with his two sons Ransom and Judah. He has spent the last decade founding, consulting, or living within multiple intentional communities. He writes for various publications, and has penned two books (and counting) exploring urban mysticism–a fancy way of talking about the intersections of faith and culture. Follow him on Twitter or his blog.