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December 16, 2007
A couple of days ago I posted a short reflection on grace and how foreign a concept this is to sinful humans. I wrote about my son and how, at a time he had received a gift he valued a great deal, he attempted to repay this gift with all the money he had (which was, it turns out, only one dollar). His offer was a kind one and even a generous one, but one that showed a misunderstanding and a misappreciation of a gift. Gifts, after all, are not repaid. They are given in grace.
My wife runs a small eBay-based business where she sells storage products (CD racks, DVD towers, and so on) along with fireplaces—electric and gel fuel. The nature of the business is such that all of the these products are drop-shipped and the addition of an extra one or two cogs to the wheel leads to the occasional difficult customer service situation. Yesterday she described to me one of these situations. A woman who had purchased some gel fuel from her had received only a partial order. It was the fault of the company that shipped the product but, of course, since my wife was the one it was purchased from, it was her responsibility to deal with. She did her best to make it right, attempting to get the full order sent right away. But this woman wanted more—she felt that she had been inconvenienced and she demanded compensation for this inconvenience. At first she asked for a discount on her purchase and then upped the ante asking for a whole case of this fuel gel to be added to her order. All of this because she only received a partial order.
I thought about this and wondered if I would do things the same way. If someone inconvenienced me by failing to provide the level of service I expected, would I demand to be compensated? Is it my right to have a perfect shopping experience every time? To be honest, I don’t know. But as I thought about this situation, I thought about grace and realized that just as it is foreign to us to accept grace, it is also foreign to us to extend grace. Why couldn’t this woman have simply extended grace? Was this issue so serious that she could not simply generously extend grace, seeking to build bridges rather than grasping for more? Would I have done any differently? What is it about grace that makes it seem strange to us?
I guess this may be the point of the parable of The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Those who have been forgiven are expected to forgive. Those who have been given grace are expected to extend grace.
But do we?