I was raised by born-again Christian parents. Born into a church that my grandmother worked to help build, I was a third generation Christian in our church. Like royalty(I know, I know, bear with me here), I was raised to believe that with that distinction I had certain rights and responsibilities.
Responsibility to learn every aspect in church, from serving to leading, counseling to organizing, I was raised to be an example to others. Because of this active participation and clean and guarded testimony, and because my grandmother and parents before me held prominent positions in the church, I was led to believe that I had earned certain rights to salvation.
Don't get me wrong, I never walked around with great airs. I never even put these thoughts into spoken words. My point is that I was taught that what I was doing with my life and in my church would guarantee my ticket into heaven and a jeweled crown to boot. Very appealing and a great motivating idea for an over-achiever.
Then I pick up Yancey's book on Grace. He talks about the parable of the farmer who hired people to work in his vineyards, and I realize that I was one of those disgruntled workers! I expected to be compensated fairly. I have also been the good son in the prodigal son parable! I've wanted, even expected, a celebration when I arrive in heaven for being good!
Like a jealous sibling, I've considered those that have abandoned God at some time in their Christian lives to be undeserving. It bothered me when I saw them return and be blessed as if they had been faithful all along. I certainly have, at times, believed I would be compensated for my good works. Like in the parable of the talents, I wholly expect to hear: Well done my good and faithful servant.
That's not the problem though, what I also wanted to hear behind me as I walked through those pearly gates was a reprimand on those who did not follow the same path that I did. How horrible is that? Horrible because I realize, if I wish that on anyone, I'm wishing it on myself. Because even though I try my hardest to be good and like Christ, I fail miserably every day.
Yancey's words hit me hard: God dispenses gifts, not wages....in the realm of grace the word deserve does not even apply. But after the shock of them, I feel a peace about it all. I don't have to worry that the accounting has been adequately done. I don't have to audit the records of my life or anyone else's to make sure that our rewards have been given out fairly. There are no rewards, wages, compensation when it comes to God - there are only gifts.
And with that realization comes great freedom. Freedom from the fear of failing and losing God's love or favor. Freedom from burdens God never intended for me to take on. But most of all freedom to accept that none of us are deserving, and even less entitled, but just very fortunate to be the recipients of God's grace.