The Riley Covington blog vocabulary word for today is “antideservation”. And, while the word itself is fairly new (say, about two hours old), the concepts are as ancient as the Giza pyramids and as rich as the fertile soil of the Black Earth Region of Central Russia (thanks, Wikipedia, for that one).
The term itself was born out of a meditation today on grace. I’ve always heard the definition of grace as the receiving of that which you do not deserve. While that’s a great first step in defining the concept, I don’t think it goes far enough. The reason being that it starts us all on a neutral playing field.
So, here’s Ned. He’s never done anything really bad. Yet, he’s also never done anything really good. He’s just neutral, middle of the road, neither der nor die, just das. Thus, if Neutral Ned were given something really cool, like an iPod or a zebra, it would be an act of grace. He didn’t earn it, didn’t deserve it, it was just a nice little out-of-the-blue gift.
But we don’t start in the middle of the road. Instead of Neutral Neds, we’re all Bad Barts. We’re rebellious, nasty, sinful. Not only have we not earned the good things; we deserve the bad things.
Now, I know many of you long-time church-going people all have your hands waving up in the air. And if I were to pick one of you…say, Marsha…Marsha would say, “But that’s where mercy comes in. You know, mercy – the not receiving of what we do deserve.”
After complimenting Marsha for her well-stated point and her fashion-forward mauve, tie-waist blouse, I would respond, “Yeah, but…but mercy is the withholding of punishment. That’s not what I’m getting at either.”
Grace is not just the receiving of that which we don’t deserve, it’s the receiving of the exact opposite of what we deserve – what we anti-deserve. Now, I recognize that I may be nuancing this finer than a Paulie Cicero garlic clove, and I agree that “grace” and “mercy” are beautifully appropriate terms (and somewhere the Holy Spirit is saying with a sigh of relief, “Hey, Guys, good news! Steve likes our words!”). I just don’t want to miss the insane depth to which grace reaches.
I deserve punishment. I deserve separation. I deserve hell. Yet, God, through His amazing grace, gives me the complete opposite – forgiveness, adoption, heaven. I praise you, Lord, for your grace, your mercy, and your wonderfully precious gift of antideservation.