I received an email with the subject: “First and Final Notice.” It seemed both ominous and inconsiderate. Why would you notify me of something only one time? If I needed to take some action, should I not be allowed more than one chance? At least you would think I could have the opportunity to discuss the matter if I disagreed with the sending party.

Last chance 1

I thought, “Hey, cut me some slack.” If I need to do something, I will do it but don’t slam the door on me if additional communication would be helpful.

“First and Final Notice” is woefully lacking in “grace” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving.” Kindness. Common courtesy.

Philosophically and theologically speaking, grace is getting what you don’t deserve. It is unlike justice (getting what you deserve) which we often expect for others or mercy (not getting what you deserve) which seems to be the “right” thing for us. Maybe I should not have expected leniency (grace) but the ultimatum seemed like harsh justice.

Grace 1

Maybe I am just like the child whose parent is constantly saying, “I am not going to tell you again.” After hearing that false promise so many times, I begin to expect to be given another chance. No second chance seems so unreasonable. Unfair.

Last chance 2

I understand that sometimes an ultimatum is necessary. However, an ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. Quite the opposite of “first and final notice.”

I wonder how often I communicate “first and final” by my attitude. Unbending. Absolute. No other options. Not open to discussion. I hope my demeanor is very much in contrast to that closed-minded and harsh approach.

I am not suggesting that anything goes. I do not believe that everything is negotiable. There are principles upon which my life is based. There are some absolutes. There are some things that are “right” and “wrong” but I have learned that things are not “black or white” as often as I once thought they were.

Grace 7

Although there are instances when we need to stand our ground, the world would be a better place if “grace” were offered more often. I think that is how God relates to us. We are accountable for our attitudes and actions but God offers forgiveness and reconciliation generously. We would do well to do likewise.

Jamie Jenkins

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