2nd August 2021

BUV Reorientation Devotion



BUV Reorientation Devotion
Part 4: The Grace of God

by Rev Chris Barnden 


When I was writing this devotion last week, I was sitting at my desk in lockdown … again (!) .. I found myself getting annoyed!  All those selfish individuals who’ve wandered around our city while infected have caused so much heartache, pain and loss for countless Victorians!  If you are like me, the pressure of the latest lockdown raised stress levels yet again, contracting my circles of concern to the health and safety of my loved ones.  I try to do the right thing, and refrain from getting upset or annoyed when I encounter or hear about other people not doing the right thing.  Through all of these lockdowns we have faced, families have been separated, some small businesses have closed, and hopes of making it through again for many have been dashed!  Surely those selfish people deserve to be punished in some way? 


How easy it is to judge and criticise, especially when injustice , or perspectives of what is deserved or otherwise are involved!  And  these judgements can be made so often on surface impressions without taking time to know the whole story!  And there is always a story.


But is talking about deserving and undeserving helpful?


Jesus told a story of some labourers in a vineyard (Matthew 20) who, because they were hired late in the day, worked for only an hour but received the same wage from the owner as did those labourers who had worked all day!   Surely, those who worked the most deserved to be paid the most?  But here is the paradox – Jesus is illustrating that life for those who belong to him is not about who deserves to get what, but about the inexplicable, unfathomable, unearned grace of God.  He reminds us that none of us get what we deserve. 


On the contrary, we get what we don’t deserve – God’s extravagant, undeserved love and mercy.  How about Jonah’s feelings towards the people of Nineveh who, when they finally heard the news of God’s coming judgement through Jonah’s preaching, repented and were forgiven?  He had already decided they deserved judgment, and so sat down outside the city to see what would happen. When he discovered that, because of their sincere repentance and sorrow, God would not bring down judgement on the people of the city, Jonah got angry!  And God then had to teach Jonah a lesson about how God regards people differently to the way we do.  


As we consider these stories they challenge us to step back from making judgements about people according to our own pain, prejudice, or inconvenience, and instead to change our way of thinking, trying to see the person or the people as God sees them, just like God sees us.


As Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “..God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” 


Here, then, is an invitation to open up our hearts, to release our fears, and re-orient our thinking to the one who is greater than us, greater than COVID, greater than our own efforts to secure safety and peace for ourselves and our loved ones, and greater than our own judgements on who deserves what.  It’s an invitation to consider again in whose arms we and our loved ones are held tight – the one who graciously welcomes us, no matter our history.


Geoff Bullock wrote a powerful song reminding us of what God’s grace has done:

I am carried in the arms of grace and love divine

I am held by hands of healing, washed by water pure

Lifting up my heavy heart, held in grace scarred hands

I am carried in the arms of grace and love divine


Never worthy, never earning, all my works now left behind,

Ever onwards, ever upwards, You’ve called me on to rise

Above my darkness, all my failure, every fear and every pain,

Always carried, always covered by grace and love divine


Questions for discussion or reflection :

  • When do you find yourself slipping into treating others as you think they deserve instead of considering them through the eyes of grace?
  • What can you do to arrest that way of thinking?
  • What might we do to more readily open up our hearts, to release our fears, and re-orient our thinking to the one who is greater than us, the God who overflows with grace and mercy?




Chris Barnden

BUV Regional Pastor – Metro




Part 1: Finding Rhythms in Reorientation
Part 2: The Goodness of God
Part 3: The Greatness of God

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