April 2, 2014.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Many of us know this to the conclusion to the parable of the prodigal son. As the parable goes, a man had two sons, the younger of whom came to the father and asked for his part of the inheritance because he was ready to get out of the house. The father split the inheritance with both of his sons, and the younger went on his way to begin a life of partying. He had many friends, so long as he had money. But as soon as his money ran out, his friends left him, and he was out of luck. He joined himself to a swine breeder, one of the lowest jobs a Jew could have, and began to eat the pig slop because he had nothing else. The story concludes with the passage above.
I believe this story gives a clear picture of the nature of God that we don’t often recognize. When the son left the father to live a lifestyle of luxury, his father still cared about him and longed for him to come back. How do we know this? All we have to do is look at the reaction the father has when his son returns. The younger son realizes the bad place he is in and says that even his father’s servants have a better life than he does. So, he decides to go back to his father and ask him to be like one of the hired servants since he is no longer worthy to be called his son. What humility he had! But notice what happens next. This is the only place in the bible where it seems that God got in a hurry. As soon as the father sees the younger son coming back, he runs to him! This is how we know that the father was continually watching to see if his son would return. He was a far off when the father saw him, and he ran to him and kissed him. The son starts to make the speech he prepared for his father, but he doesn’t even get to finish. As soon as the son says he has sinned, the father throws a party in honor of his return, welcoming him with open arms. This is the nature of God.
Grace. This wonderful thing that we can’t even fully understand. The grace and forgiveness of God that he so freely gives to any who follow him. Even when we mess up (well, especially when we mess up). Our father knows that we have weakness. He knows that we are broken. But his grace reaches us regardless.
I’ve have heard grace compared to a shower, continueously cleansing us of our daily sins. I think this is a powerful analogy, and I would like to expound on it. Grace is like a shower. We are all going to sin. If this sends us to hell, then we are all going to hell, and rightly so. But the good news is that the grace of God continually cleanses us of this sin! Now, this is not to say that we cannot step out of the shower upon our own free will, because the bible clearly teaches that we can (James 5:19-20, Hebrews 6:4-8, II Peter 2:20-22). But as long as we stay in the shower, that is continue to seek righteousness and the will of God, making strides to avoid sin and repenting when we do fall, then his grace covers us.
Think about it. God is not up there in heaven just waiting for us to fall. Just waiting in anticipation to kick us out. Why would he be? As Jesus hung on the cross, the crowd was spitting, tormenting and mocking him. But what did he say? “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In the middle of his agony, he called for forgiveness! That is the love of God. Jesus is more than willing to forgive us of all our sins. All we are charged to do is come to him, repenting of those sins.
What should we do then? Continue to sin that grace may abound? Paul says “may it never be!” For we have died to sin, being buried and raised with Christ in baptism, so that we might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6) Are we going to fall? Yes. But the important thing is whether or not we are getting back up. That’s the difference between a sinner and a Christian who sins. If a Christian tells you that they never sin, do not believe them. John writes “if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves.” But if we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us of them. (I John 1:8-10)
God loves us. And that is amazing. Christianity is not a chalkboard that must be continually filled and erased of sin. Grace covers our sin. The blood of Christ washes our sin. There is no need to worry. Unless you have stepped out of the shower. There’s always a way home. Won’t you come?
Suggested Daily Reading: Luke 15, 22-24. Hebrews 9-10.
Grace be with you.