November 19, 2014

Prodigal Grace I: A Fatherly Love

Luke 15:11-12 ~ “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”

Prod·i·gal  \ˈprä-di-gəl\ (Adjective) - Having or giving something on a lavish scale.

So why does the father of the prodigal son give him his portion of his wealth up front like this? Doesn't this seem foolish even by today's standards? He's taking a mighty risk that may fall flat and at first appears that it does. The father seems to have understood that in order to win the heart of his son, he had to risk losing him altogether. This was accomplished by giving him something even more dangerous and reckless than what he asked for. By giving him what he asked for that could potentially ruin his life, he has actually given him his son unmerited grace.

The young man’s father never stipulates what it will take for him to return to the fold. He never puts restrictions on his son’s return. Even though the son is clearly deserving of reprimands when he returns, he receives grace from his father (not so much his brother). The young man is essentially rewarded for poor behavior.


The father knows that the son is remorseful by observing his actions. To drum the young man over the head further is to be unduly harsh and defeats an opportunity to make a lasting impression. They are called teachable moments in our children's lives. It is in the Father’s forgiveness that we see the blinding light of grace. This goes against our American cultural mindset of revenge and getting even with people. It goes against our nearly pathological need of restitution.

“I was wronged! Someone is going to pay!” 

We are a legal and litigious society that says someone has to pay. Someone has to be at fault. This screams from deep inside most of us. We believe that there has to be a negative consequence for a negative action. This of course flies right in the face forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Retaliation is in our sinful DNA….but…if retribution is necessary the Scripture tells us...

Deuteronomy 32:35 ~ “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’

Our constant sinful refrain, “I will not be walked on!”

Jesus’ response to this mentality?

Matthew 5:38-42 ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

We are much too comfortable with loving those that treat us well and punishing or ripping into those that cross us. I’m no expert but this does not look like unconditional love. It looks a lot like conditional love.

Grace allows us to overlook slights and wrongs that would otherwise dwell in us and fester like a sore. Grace and unconditional love are intrinsically tied together. It is exactly why we are called to love our enemies. It requires grace that common human behavior is not capable of. It is possible through a Spirit indwelt believer. Even then, it is a battle because we wrestle against the flesh.

Yes, we must love our enemies because it shows the Spirit’s work of grace in us. It gives us the grace to be able to love those that are normally unlovable.

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 

We must do this because it may only be the grace we show the unlovable that makes them sit up and pay attention to God. Many people that do not receive love by the world’s retaliatory standards know they are unlovable. They expect to be treated like dirt bags. So when someone shows them kindness it forces them to reassess the one doing the loving. If that person just happens to be Christian, the connection is unavoidable and the impact is profound. They will see that difference and will note the fact that the person is not operating on normal standards but something beyond themselves. This is appealing to a person that is already outside the social norm. I know, I was that unlovable dog.

We see this in the father of the Prodigal Son and we see it in Christians that can rise above their emotions just long enough to do the right thing.

No retaliation. Why no retaliation? Simple.

[Read that in the next post...]

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