Prodigal Love

“The suddenly there dawns upon us the vast, entire endowment of God’s free love and forgiveness…It is this which bowls us over…frees us…transforms us.” Paul Tournier

Saved by Grace.

Christians throw that phrase around to express their faith, but do they really know what Grace is? I’ve come to a deeper appreciation and revelation about God’s Grace. It’s so amazing, even my seven-year-old is still too young to understand it’s power and meaning.

I’ve come to understand through my own Christian walk the difference between Grace and Mercy in these simple terms:

Grace is getting some reward I don’t deserve. Mercy is being forgiven or pardoned from a wrong I did and a punishment I deserve.

The most remarkable thing about the God I serve is that He offers these to us generously, every day. Other religions of the world can’t boast this about their gods. They promote religions where man gets exactly what he deserves or that he’ll have to pay, or make atonement for their sins in another life or another time. They also promote works, and striving to gain the approval of their God and to enter into their idea of heaven everlasting life. I’m so glad I’m not a slave to their religions, but found the power of Grace through the gift God gave the world in his Son Jesus Christ.

Dwight Edwards in Experiencing God uses the example of the story of the Prodigal Son to illustrate God’s grace and mercy. When I had read the story in the past, my focus was always on the two sons, the wayward one and the one who stayed by the father’s side. But let’s take a look at the father.

Edwards pointed out that most of us think of prodigal as meaning wayward. I have to confess that’s what I thought. But prodigal means “excessive or overflowing” as in the word prodigy, a person who is overflowing or gifted with exceptional abilities. In light of this revelation, let’s look at the story a new. The story about the Prodigal Father. You may want to take a moment to read the story for yourself found in Luke 15.

Grace is the theme of the Prodigal Son, and it’s demonstrated in the father’s response to his son. In the story we read that “while the son was still a great way off, his father saw him.” This can imply that though the son had done a terrible thing by taking his inheritance and running away, the father was still looking for him. Amidst his daily chores, the father was watching the road, hoping to see his son.

And when the father finally saw his son returning home, instead of saying “I told you so” or “I knew you’d be back”, he had “compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Edwards points out that in that culture, an older man running toward someone was considered undignified and wouldn’t normally happen. Now consider how this culture felt about pigs. They were unclean, defiled animals and his son smelled like a pig, covered in sweat and grime as he traveled in the hot son down dusty roads.

Now imagine the scene again. An old man running toward this filthy, defiled broken vessel of a man. How great the father’s joy had to be to do this in front of all his servants and family. What a prodigal love the father had for his son!

Then the father restored his son to his rightful position as a son. What better picture of Grace is that? Being accepted back in the family though he didn’t deserve it. Do you think the son was surprised? Of course, the best he had expected was to be a servant in his father’s house. And the Grace didn’t end there. “Bring out the best robe…a ring…sandals…kill the fatted calf…” The older brother sat by and witnessed his father’s grace and didn’t get it. That’s because “Grace is unimaginable in generosity. It gives beyond all reasonable expectation.”

It’s the same with God and us. He sees our sin, our waywardness, and yet waits, scanning the horizon for us to return, never giving up hope that we will someday be reconciled with Him.

Edwards says “God’s Grace is the most unreasonable thing in the world. It’s also the most powerful. Nothing is more effective for transforming lives, risky though it is.”

I have to agree as I marvel at God’s prodigal love for me.

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