I used the above line in my sermon yesterday. After worship, during the handshaking period, a congregant came up to me and asked me a question:
"What if what we need and we deserve are the same thing?"
My answer: "Then that's what we get."
I used the Guthrie quotation in the context of receiving grace, rather than punishment for our sins. I think that's a large part of the good news of God. We deserve death, but in Jesus Christ, we are given life instead. That grace empowers us to encounter a world that is still tainted by its own limitations and sins. We can go boldly into the world and know that no matter what happens, God will not give up on us. Grace is a huge part of my theology, and I think it's one of the central traits of Christianity.
But I think from time to time we need a wake-up call.
Just as a loving parent will discipline their children, God's loving judgement is visited upon us. Sometimes, what we need is a taste of what we deserve. We receive that wake up call because we need it, and the fact that it's what we deserve is a coincidence, not a cause. In the same passage on which I preached, Jesus asserts that those who lift themselves up will be brought low. My interpretation of that statement is a warning that from time to time, when we forget that we need God, we will find ourselves faced with a harsh reminder.
I'm not sure of the source, but I have heard it said that the task of preaching is to "comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." It is not my place to judge who is whom, but I think that both are necessary.
I wonder, Does the Church spoil God's children when it preaches only grace, and omits how badly we need it?