The Lost Son
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
Luke 15:31-32 (NIV)
It was after my mother-in-law’s funeral and the immediate family were taking part in a socially distanced wake; we were recounting stories about her and celebrating her life. My husband’s sister told of a time that my husband, as a young boy, was sent to the shops to buy fish fingers for tea, but had come home with ice cream instead. The question that sprang to everyone’s mind was, ‘What did your mum do?’ ‘Oh, she just laughed and we had ice cream for tea that night,’ was the reply. I could tell that my sister-in-law was still not happy about the outcome, even after so many years. She later explained that she had wanted her brother punished for doing what she considered to be wrong. I must admit I agreed with her.
It would seem that other families have similar issues. In the story of the Lost Son, found in Luke 15, the older son was angry that his father was celebrating the return of his younger brother by hosting a party. He complained, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:29-30).
Our sense of justice demands that people are punished for their wrongdoing. It seems only fair to our natural way of thinking, yet, so often, when it comes to ourselves, not surprisingly, we tend to be less dogmatic.
God, on the other hand, sees things differently. He is a God of justice and he knows that we are all sinners, deserving of death (Romans 1:32), but he chooses to extend his grace to us. Jesus says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10). God relentlessly seeks us because he loves us and does not offer us what we deserve, but forgiveness and salvation instead. ‘God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.’ (Ephesians. 2:8-9 NLT).
Perhaps, like the elder brother in the parable, we struggle to understand God’s grace because somewhere deep inside we harbour the false idea that it has to be earned; why else do we feel threatened when someone else is shown his grace? Joyce Meyer reminds us, ‘Grace is God doing for us what we could never do and what we will never deserve.’
Our loving Father, thank you for celebrating when one of your lost children is found. No one is worthless to you and you lavish us all with your love and forgiveness. We understand it is totally undeserved and is a reflection of your perfect love. Amen.
Study by Jackie Mill
About the writer:
Jackie Mill is an Elder and Pastoral Worker for Grace Communion International in Scotland and Ireland and Camp Director for SEP summer camp.
Gilmerton New Church
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