I’ve been writing about grace, “unmerited favor of God”. Grace, unlimited in its width, depth, scope, and power, is God’s gift to you. It is His undeserved kindness, generosity, and favor. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. Grace is other-focused. God gives grace to us, and His expectation is that we show that same grace to others.
In Luke 15 we find the picture of grace in the story of the prodigal son and his father. The story begins with a self-centered, younger son. He requests his inheritance and then squanders all his father’s hard earned money, ending up working for a pig farmer. In a state of horrible desperation, he remembers his father and decides to return home as a slave.
What was going through his mind as he trudged homeward? Maybe he realized what a failure he was. Or did he think about the money his father gave him that he had foolishly thrown away. Possibly he feared a harsh rejection, one he was sure he deserved. Whatever he thought, he was not prepared for his father’s response.
Imagine: He sees his father’s house in the distance as he shuffles shamefully forward. Another glance toward his old home reveals an unidentifiable person hurrying toward him. As the figure draws nearer, he recognizes him as his father. He prepares himself for the worst. In that culture, killing the son would have been the “honorable thing to do” due to the disgrace he brought to the family name.
He’s bewildered by his father’s loving embrace. Shame and condemnation wash over him, an indicator of his self-hatred and guilt. The father’s love faces off against the son’s self-degradation. He goes limp in the father’s embrace unable to hold back the tears.
He absorbs the father’s senseless love until he’s full. He notices the smile on his dad’s face. The father is smiling because he is overjoyed at the son’s return. This is too much for the son. He only hoped for a job as a slave, and yet he is treated as a son despite all his filthiness and poor decisions.
The father continues to extend lavish grace by having a ring put on his hand, sandals put on his feet, and a robe placed on his back. Each is a visible sign of full son-ship. The father completes his bountiful acts of grace by inviting the community to a joyous celebration of his son’s return. Rather than being embarrassed at the wayward son, the father responds with merriment and celebration. The father’s response to a rebellious son is a beautiful picture of transforming grace.
Each of us has had our prodigal experiences. Prodigal behavior is common because our heart’s default setting is “trust yourself at all cost”. Self-trust is rooted in the belief that I will be more gracious to myself than God will. Who are we kidding anyway? Turn your heart back toward your heavenly Father. He will run to meet you. Then you can recklessly heap His grace on others.