Thoughts on Unfathomable Grace

Read—Luke 15:11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners gathered to hear Jesus. The Pharisees muttered to themselves about a man who would break bread with sinners. Jesus responds by telling a story about a lost sheep, then about a lost coin, and then finally, a story about two sons.

When I read the last part of the story as a child, I thought of it only as the story of a lost son. I saw the older son in the story as a villain. He came in at the end, angry at the injustice of celebrating his brother’s return. His brother had done nothing to deserve the abundant grace poured out by his loving father. And yet his father killed the fatted calf for him. 

I reread this recently and was brought to tears by a realization I’ve never had before. Neither son understood grace. The younger son comes home and is adamant that he is no longer worthy to be part of his father’s house. His plan is to be a servant. To live out the rest of his days enjoying the small comfort of regular meals and fair treatment. But his father throws him a feast. Welcomes him back into the family with open arms, and not only provides for him, but LOVES him. His son’s protest of unworthiness is no match for this love: “for my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

The older brother hears of this and is angry. He refuses to go in to the feast. When his father comes out to plead with him, the son reminds his father of all he’d accomplished, and how miserably his brother had failed. The father’s response to this? The same as to the younger son. “My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Neither son understood grace. The younger son thought that his mistakes made him deserve the worst. The older son had lived his whole life doing everything “right.” He was understandably confused when his brother’s return brought upon so much rejoicing and celebration—hadn’t he spent his whole life in his father’s favor, yet had never received such a welcome? 

The father’s response to his sons is the same for each because their misunderstanding is the same. Both are baffled by grace because they believe it is their actions that earn them their father’s love. And yet, the father makes no demands or stipulations when he welcomes back his child. His son was lost and is found! His love for him never stopped. His grace reflected that love—unconditional, unable to be earned, and unfathomable. 

So often in my life I have felt like the younger son. Unworthy, needing reminders that God’s grace covered me even when I stumbled on the narrow path. But now that I am maturing and have been with God for a long, joyful while, I find myself needing a reminder that God’s grace wasn’t given to me because I am a good and faithful daughter of Christ. God held out His arms long before I ever knew I’d need them. I need His grace as much now as I ever did. Without it, I would be as lost as the prodigal son. It is easy to see people struggle and wonder how God could ever welcome them home. But because I am dwelling in my Father’s house, I am blessed to be living in His grace. My heart should break for those who do not yet dwell in Grace and Truth, and rejoice without hesitation when they finally find their Father. 


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