A few months ago I started teaching a reading intervention group for first graders for a half hour every day. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how reading works (it’s amazing to me that any of us ever learn it) and how to manage 1st grade boys in a small group (lots of prayer and bribery). But this week the boys taught me something about the unfairness of grace.
On Tuesday, one of the boys came into the room and it was clear from the start that this was going to be one of his bad days. He could barely keep himself in his seat and he refused to cooperate when we were working as a group. Every time I opened my mouth to say something, he was talking, or trying to leave the room, or distracting the other kids. I resorted to ignoring him completely so that we could get through the lesson, but it wasn’t easy.
When we got to the independent worksheet at the end of the lesson, he still hadn’t calmed down. He pushed the paper away and refused to do it. I put the paper back in front of him and ignored him. After a few minutes of this, he finally started to do the work. So I smiled at him and complimented him on his neat writing.
The boy next to him turned to me and said, “Miss Larter, why are you being nice to him?”
“What do you mean?” I said
“Don’t you remember? He was getting out of his seat and being loud and you were mad at him because he was being so bad. And now you’re being nice to him,” he said accusingly.
“Well, he turned it around. He’s doing the right thing now,” I said.
“But it’s not fair,” he whined.
So I pulled a teacher trick and turned it around on him, asking, “What if you had a bad day and turned it around? Wouldn’t you want me to be nice to you?”
He mumbled something and let the subject drop. But what that seven-year-old didn’t realize is that he had been the recipient of a fair share of my grace just a few months earlier. When I first started teaching the group, he was the boy who I was constantly frustrated with. He was the topic of my frantic prayers for strength before he came into the room. But everyday, by God’s grace, I managed to be nice to him. In truth, he had about a month of “bad days” before I started to see him turn his behavior around.
I realized that there is that tendency in all of us when grace is extended to a guilty party to complain about the unfairness. This first grader was upset, and rightfully so, that I was being nice to someone who deserved to be punished.
Isn’t that what we so often do to God? We get a little indignant that God shows others so much blessing. We think He must have forgotten how badly that person messed up in the past.
But that is exactly what He has done for us.
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12 ESV)
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12 ESV)
It’s not fair, the way God treats us. But I am so thankful that it isn’t.