Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). This story is a fantastic display of the grace that the father had for his son that had come back. The parable is being told to teach those listening that God, our Father, offers us unchanging love and undeserved grace; love and grace that no works can earn but that he simply gives us if we want it. I just recently finished reading a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (please read this book, it changed my life and I’m certain it can change yours). Manning wrote this about the prodigal son:
I am moved that the father didn’t cross-examine the boy, bully him, lecture him on ingratitude, or insist on any high motivation. He was so overjoyed at the sight of his son that he ignored all the canons of prudence and parental discretion and simply welcomed him home. The father took him back just as he was. What a word of encouragement, consolation, and comfort! We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up. We don’t have to tarry at the tavern until purity of heart arrives. We don’t have to be shredded with the sorry or crushed with contrition. We don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us. We don’t have to wallow in guilt, shame, remorse, and self-condemnation. Even if we still nurse a secret nostalgia for the far country, Abba falls on our neck and kisses us. Even if we come back because we couldn’t make it on our own, God will welcome us. He will seek no explanations about our sudden appearance. He is glad we are there and wants to give us all we desire…The prodigal’s father said, in effect, “Hush, child. I don’t need to know where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to.”
The words of this story just scream “You are forgiven no matter what you’ve done.”
However, there is another part of this story; the older son:
Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ – (Luke 15:25-32, ESV)
I am that son. I am the so-called ‘faithful’ son to my earthly dad and to God. My older brother left the house shortly after my parents divorced. He was 17 years old and the enemy had worked in ways that ended with him moving to another state and out of our lives for about 2-3 years. I was bitter from the start; bitter that he had abandoned me, bitter that he could escape the emotional pain, but I couldn’t. Bitterness has unfortunately taken so much control of our relationship that even after 3 years of him returning, I still struggle with releasing that bitterness completely. Instead I just hope for it to slowly die out without any effort. Reading both this passage from Luke and Manning’s book, I have realized that It is more than just the father who needed to show that unfailing grace; the rest of the family showed it, their friends showed it, and even the servants showed it. I’m the one who didn’t. I’m the one who was not only bitter still about his leaving, but bitter because for some reason ‘He shouldn’t receive grace that easily.’ Grace has made itself very clear to me in that there is no halfway grace. Grace is complete and cannot never be offered in parts.
I’m the “faithful” son to God, too. “I’ve been your child for 12 years, committed no felonies, remained abstinent, and even gone to a Christian college. How does the cocaine-addicted thief who is a trafficking lord get the same grace if he asks for it? That’s not fair.” My “sophistication” in Christianity tells me lies about how deserving I am of God’s grace, of salvation. My pride immediately rejects the “worse sinner” and marks them as undeserving. I need to get rid of the idea that there is such a thing as the “faithful” son and realize that I am a prodigal and that anyone saved by God’s unfathomable grace is a prodigal “for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
I would urge you to do two things upon finishing this: 1) Pray to be humbled so that you can see everyone like our Father does: a potential prodigal. 2) Go to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, wherever you buy your books and buy The Ragamuffin Gospel.
I pray, Lord, that you would humble me to see myself as no better than any potential prodigal, that you would show me how to show others the grace you offer, and I thank you that you would forgive a sinner like me.