Have you ever heard or used phrases like “paying it forward” or “giving back” or “committing random acts of kindness”?  Often phrases like those are used in settings where people are talking about helping others or being philanthropic.  The thought is that they will do something for someone else without regard for being thanked or noticed simply because it comes from the goodness of their heart.  Being gracious and showing mercy by providing things for others in need, being civic-minded or simply doing nice things for others are wonderful opportunities - let’s not stop doing them! 

However, have you ever had this experience?  You give away something that's valuable to you - your time or money or effort - and the recipient acts as though they deserved the gift.  Their response catches you off guard because it is not the response of someone who feels that they are undeserving.  They only seem to convey a mild thanks or maybe they don’t even acknowledge what you did at all.  You get the sense that they don’t appreciate you or what you have done for them.  How disappointing!  Sure, you weren’t doing it to get thanked, but acting like they deserved it or that it was expected can't help but rub you the wrong way.  Now imagine how many times a day God gets that same response…

God says, “They are undeserving of my grace and deserving of my punishment and not my mercy”. (See Psalm 103)  What’s the proof?  Exodus Chapter 20.  Commandment #1 - BROKEN - putting my family or my making money before God.  Commandment #2 - BROKEN - “OMG.”  Commandment #3 - BROKEN - barely making an hour on Sunday sometimes.  We could go on and on….and God does. Yet God also gives us the greatest gift of all - a Savior who takes all of our broken commandments way.

But what’s so great about that gift?  Heaven?  Sure, it will be beyond our comprehension.  Peace?  Sometimes, when we can get our heads around the victory that Jesus has won for us.  Freedom?  Yes, to show His love to others.  But for me, the best part is the undeserved-ness of it.  The mere fact that I don’t deserve God's gift of salvation through Jesus and the opposite fact that I do deserve eternal damnation apart from him - that’s what makes God's gift so wonderful.  The inclusion of God's gifts that I should not have: grace and the absence of what I should receive - eternal condemnation in hell: mercy.  These are what make the gospel of Christ so amazing to me!

Sometimes, God gives us earthly examples of what that grace and mercy are like.  You’ve seen them, just as I have.  A friend who looks past the selfishness in our conversations.  A co-worker who doesn’t throw you under the bus when you don’t put in as much effort as others.  A spouse who doesn’t strike back when you use harsh words.  A God who knows your deepest, darkest sins and who says, “Because of Jesus, I can’t see them anymore - come home, my child, and be with me in paradise.” (Isaiah 43)

Never forget your undeserved-ness.  At the same time, always remember God's freely given grace and mercy - our undeserved gifts through Christ Jesus our Savior!