Twenty years ago I had the privilege of being a part of a Christian Counselling Course. On the last day of the final exams we gathered outside the exam room and everyone looked as if they were feeling as anxious as I was.
The subject was Sexuality. It had been a demanding and complex course and the reading list had been beyond exhausting. As we chatted, I realised that although we had all studied as hard as we could, none of us was feeling confident that we could even pass.
At nine o’clock precisely we entered the room to find our exam papers face down on the desk in font of us. The lecturer began to explain, “Your exam papers are before you but each of you has already been given an 'A'. You may leave the room, sure in that knowledge. However, if you prefer to sit the exam you are most welcome to do so but the mark recorded will be the one you earn”.
We looked at each other in total disbelief. Then we bolted for the door more excited and relieved than there are words to describe.
However, three people remained and sat the exam. They had done the study and refused to be cheated of the right to earn their marks. I’ll never know if they achieved the 'A' or settled for something less but it was for me a most powerful demonstration of grace at work.
I know without a doubt that I would not have earned an 'A' … it was undeserved grace. But some refused to accept grace, determined to do it on their own. One man was really angry that the rest of us got what we didn’t deserve ... and of course we had.
It reminds me of the workers in the vineyard, some worked all day, some only an hour but all received the same wage. The ones who were only able to find an hour’s work still had to feed their families just the same as those who were fortunate enough to be given a day’s work. Some were angry because grace was offered.
It leaves me pondering where I offer grace to the people in my life ... my family ... my friends and the stranger at my gate. I confess that many of my daily choices are made without conscious consideration of whether I am offering grace. How about you?