Read Genesis 28:10-17
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night,because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place,he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth,the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said,”I am the Lord,the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth,and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go,and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said,”Surely the Lord is in this place-and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid,and said,”How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God,and this is the gate of heaven.” (NRSV)
Here is a man,Jacob,who has just deceived his father and cheated his brother out of his inheritance. He wisely runs away from the mess he has made. He runs,but he cannot hide. Not that his enemies are out to get him,rather that his God has not given up on him. We may think Jacob has blown his chances,but God doesn’t give up so easily.
This cheating fugitive is yet a recipient of grace. He gets a vision of God interacting with humanity,reasserting his promise of blessing to Jacob. The lying and the cheating takes its toll on Jacob but it doesn’t disqualify him from receiving the grace of God.
Grace is God’s kindness shown to those who don’t deserve it. And yet we tend to be surprised by the sorts of person God chooses to bless. We perhaps still assume it is the good and worthy people whom God favours. But this makes grace meaningless. By definition,it is not a reward for good conduct.
This is good news for us who fall short in so many ways. Our falling short will take its own toll on us but does not cause God to turn his back on us. God does not approve of lying and cheating and betrayal. He rather has condemned it when Jesus died on the cross. Which means he is free to show mercy to those who can never earn it.
So we quit trying to earn grace: we can only gratefully and wonderingly accept it.