Grace For Me, Too

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M_Musu

I’ve heard it so many times that I almost missed it.

The story of a father’s limitless love for a wayward child. A child who would not, could not appreciate the security of the father’s love until he comes to his senses, as he finds even pig slop out of reach for him to fill a hungry stomach.

You’ve likely heard the story too, it’s most often referred to as the story of the prodigal son. There is not a more common illustration of how God waits for us, longs for us, and runs out to welcome us whenever we are ready to come home. It has been told millions of times to remind us that no one can do anything to disqualify themselves from God’s embrace. God will always welcome anyone who turns towards him. This father will not just passively accept you, He will step out, pull you in and even celebrate you. It is the good news as illustrated by Jesus himself.

Recently though, the story is often told as a warning.

You see, there is another child in the story. The good son. The one who stays the course, never strays, follows the rules and tends his father’s field. As he approaches the homestead after another day of work, he is unpleasantly surprised to learn that his father is celebrating the return of his wayward brother. As Jesus tells it, “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.”

You may have heard the warning too. The older brother is a portrait of the law-keeping, church-going Pharisee who misses the beauty of God’s grace as it is played out around them. The religious-minded Christian so focused on rulekeeping that they miss out on the joy of salvation.

What is the father’s reaction to the pouty son? Not a wagging finger, snarky jab or a put-you-in-your-place attack. Instead, Jesus tells that the “… father went out and pleaded with him.”

The father went out.

The father went out!

There is grace for the Pharisee too.

I’ve heard it so many times that I almost missed it.

There is grace for me, too.

It has been more than 20 years since I turned to accept the Father’s offer of adoption. I enjoyed the welcome as he pulled me in, discovered grace and lived in celebration that there was nothing I had ever done to disqualify myself from God’s embrace.

Over the years since I first said “yes” to God’s offer, I settled into family life with God. Church-going, rule-keeping, tending his fields and growing more religious-minded than I would like to admit. Finally, one day I found myself angry, confused and incredulous, standing on the outside looking in as He celebrated the return of a wayward sister, yelling, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat (a coveted opportunity, a secret dream, a quick fix) so I could celebrate with my friends.”

… And the father whispers “My daughter, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

It is a reminder of the Father’s limitless love for me, a wayward child. I am unable to appreciate the security of God’s love until I find myself unable to reach for the feast available to fill my hungry soul. This story reminds me again that God will always welcome anyone who turns towards him. This father will not just passively accept me; He will step out, pull me in and even celebrate me. It is the good news as illustrated by Jesus himself.

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