“…But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Imagine, an elderly, respected man, a pillar of the community, tucking his long robes in his belt and running to welcome his son home. Especially this son!
I think that’s why Jesus’ parable of the “Prodigal Son” is so popular. Ultimately, it is the story of a boy who did everything wrong.
He knew what he was doing was wrong and did it anyway. He knew truth, but chose to go the other direction. What makes the story so amazing is that the father he wronged welcomed him home without punishment. That is grace!
Les Miserables, one of my wife’s and my favorites, is a similar story. Jean Valjean, a thief, was given a new life by the grace shown to him by a priest. But throughout the rest of his life, he’s hounded by detective Javert – the ultimate legalist. Javert wants his pound of flesh!
If you know the story, the climax is that the criminal extends grace to the cop.
Here’s an even more up-to-date version told by Phillip Yancey. A girl gets tattoos, a nose ring, rebels against her parents, runs away, becomes addicted to drugs, and begins a life of prostitution.
This was back in the day when your face would show up on a milk carton when you ran away. For two years she lived on the streets. But eventually, the girl’s pimp had gotten as much out of her as he could and threw her out.
With nowhere else to turn, she called home and left a message on the answering machine.
She hoped to sneak back into town and back home. But when she got off the bus her entire family was there. 40 people! Parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts. All wearing party hats with a huge banner saying, “Welcome Home!”
She hugged her father in tears and before she could even say “I’m sorry” her dad said “Hush, sweetheart, we’ll talk later. We’ve got to get you home to the party. There’s a banquet waiting for you.”
What a stupid story, right?! Unless you’re a parent. Looking foolish is a risk God willingly takes when he extends us grace instead of taking a pound of flesh.
Join us Sunday for my final sermon in the series, Grace and Truth!