This was written for the Center for Congregational Ethics on-line Lectionary to Life Series and is based on Psalm 103:8-13; Genesis 37:12-36; and 1 John 3:11-16 for September 14, 2023. 

When the unpleasant befalls us, we may lament, “It’s not fair. Why me? Why this? Why now? I do not deserve this.” Our passages for today outline a few examples of lamentable, undeserved actions. In Genesis 37:12-36, the plot by his own brothers to kill Joseph and say an animal did it was altered to his benefit, but Joseph did not deserve to be sold into slavery. And their father Jacob did not deserve decades of inconsolable mourning for Joseph. 

In 1 John 3:11-16, the writer points to Abel who, while living righteously, did not deserve to be murdered by his brother Cain. It was an evil betrayal of the bond of love. In the same way, John goes on to caution that believers should not be surprised by undeserved persecution and hatred.

It is in Psalm 103:8-13 that we confront our own sins toward God and the people we encounter each day. Do others deserve the sins we commit against them? Just as Joseph showed grace when he later confronted and forgave his brothers; just as God showed compassion to Cain and marked him with a sign of protection; so too we do not deserve God’s abounding love and mercy. Yet the psalmist sings, God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

 How then should we, whose sins have been removed from God’s sight as far as the east is from the west, respond?  Let us meditate this day on our own undeserved love from God. Let’s give those we encounter today undeserved compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  Undeserved.

Darryl DeBorde is pastor of the Braden Park Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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