Thinking about two phrases

by Penrod

Thinking about two phrases:

“Aversion to inequity”

I recently encountered this term in a review by John Gray of Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong by Marc D. Hauser. Gray told about a bonobo who displayed an “aversion to inequity” in trying to assist a bird. I knew right away what the term means. I recognize an aversion to inequity in myself and I think most humans have it more or less. I agree with those who think this feeling or innate sense is a major impetus toward human morality. We have competing feelings and desires so it is not certain that aversion to inequity will prevail in guiding our actions toward another but it is present and often very powerful. “A level playing field” is a metaphor that reflects this innate sense. “Everybody is equal under the law” asserts the rightness of it.

This aversion is experienced sharply on the personal level. I have found myself making rules or guiding games with children so that the inequities, one being the inequity of my adult superior size, strength, and experience (given waning powers, much less a problem now than in the past) is mitigated so as not to spoil the game. Games are less fun if there is inequity that dictates the play. When the participants are peers, the playing field is properly leveled by rules that apply to all. The other side of aversion are the motives of fun and satisfaction. These are positive forces for morality and meaning. Perhaps aversion to inequity derives from the desire for fun, for a satisfying game and, by extension, a level playing field in the “game” of life.

There are many other feelings and desires involved in understanding and guiding morality but other considerations do not negate desire for fair, fun play and its dialectical corollary, aversion to inequity.

“Delight in the undeserved”

I came across this term in Philip Yancey book What’s So Amazing About Grace? He wrote: “In each of these uses [terms employing grace] I hear a pang of the childlike delight in the undeserved.” I know that delight and experience it. Delight in the undeserved is a form of thankfulness. So much that matters in our lives is not ours because we deserve it—things like air to breathe, the capacity to breathe, the sun to warm us, family, friends and neighbors, being born in a civil society, and on and on.

I was startled when, after a clear, appealing, delightful description of grace, Mr. Yancey wrote: “I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else” (italics mine, p. 16). How can this be true—especially the second part? Grace is everywhere we turn. Grace is not a religious thing. The church is not the dispenser of grace, the church is created by grace, a much larger spirit than the church is the source of grace. I have experienced delight in the undeserved in all sorts of places and by the agency of all sorts of people where and when neither church nor religion had any part in it. Grace is common, in the most wonderful meaning of common, to all.

It is vital to realize and acknowledge the universal commonness of grace if we are to be good citizens and agents of grace and reconciliation. To evangelize is to come alongside others to listen, learn, discover, and lift up the good news and grace already present and to help where we can. God is not limited to “his” Christians. The reality of grace comes from beyond any institution, religion, or theology (though each may be a vessel of grace). This said, I am grateful to Mr. Yancey for lifting up grace and contrasting it with judgment, and for the graceful terms he employs like “pulled by grace” and “delight in the undeserved.”