by John James Kirkwood
There are three possible responses to the grace of God, all pointed out by our Lord in his parable of the wayward sons, known popularly as The Prodigal Son.
There is the betrayal of grace – the son who walks away from it carrying its blessing into a far land and fritters it away. This is treating grace as license.
There is deriding grace – the elder son in the field who also sees grace as license but would never indulge it. Instead, he is dismissive of grace. His compliance is his pride.
Both sons failed to grasp grace because neither son recognized the father for who and what he was, nor did they recognize themselves for who and what they were. That is, until forgiveness was tasted.
And it is on the ground of forgiveness, in a puddle of humility, that we first see the true nature of grace, because we first see our father as He truly is. And we see him act on the unworthy and undeserving wretch that we are.
And this is where the third response to grace comes in – “I am compelled by the love of Christ!”
It begins with the recipient in speechless wonder and it ends with, not a stingy compliance but a fervent joy. A desire to please.
Worship and service become the joint response of the recipient of grace who first begins to see the enormity and magnanimity of our blessed Savior.
A joy of service, of obedience, of faithfulness, and of grace extended to those like us who didn’t recognize grace and either threw it off or passed it by, scowling.
And it is seen over and over from Mary Magdalene to Saul of Tarsus. But sadly, many remain in the field. Many refuse to come in.
The person who defines grace in terms of his own personal obedience and not God’s faithfulness has his hand on the plow and toils with the elder son in the field.
The person who defines grace in terms of his personal freedom and not freedom in Christ has his hand on the pint and is in the pub with the prodigal.
The person who defines grace in terms of the magnanimity of the father and the faithfulness of the son – his is the kingdom. He has eaten of the fatted calf. He bears the family ring. His feet are shod and he, in grateful humility, is ready to go forth in the name of the Father.
Truth be told, there are two sorts of people who twist grace into lasciviousness: the unrighteous who betray it, and the self-righteous who deride it.
How did we come to see this story as “The Prodigal Son”? – Well, probably because it was an “Elder Brother” who first shared it with us.