As wonderful as God’s umbrella grace is in my life, I find His do-over grace even more miraculous and harder to accept. This is the grace given to the prodigal son in Luke 15.
A few weeks ago, I was eating with the pigs. I wasn’t doing anything visibly bad, but I was being very self-focused, absorbed with myself and not much else. I often can gloss over this attitude in myself but I was convicted when I read Psalm 51:6, You desire truth in the inner parts. That’s where my selfishness was, tucked safely away inside. So I brought out my dirty laundry into the open.
But although I knew God would forgive me, I still felt bad about it, not with godly contrition but with self-pity [as I said, I was being self-focused]. It felt too easy and too quick to be forgiven by God. It seemed I needed to suffer more, that I needed to stay with the pigs, that I wasn’t worthy of grace.
That’s when I realized that “I shall arise and go back to my father” [Luke 15:18] is one of the most important statements in the Bible. Eating with the pigs is bad enough. But a deeper problem happens when I stay away from God, isolating myself from Him and remaining too far away to receive His love and care.
The story doesn’t say how long the son wallowed with the pigs and ate garbage. It just says that eventually he came to his senses [and you’d hope it wouldn’t take more than a day of eating slop to come to your senses.] He admitted to himself that he was eating pig slop. He knew that wasting his inheritance had brought him to a bad place. But coming to his senses wasn’t enough. There came the moment when he had a second choice to make: to stay away or to return home. That’s what clinches it in the end, that the son goes back.
It’s possible to come to my senses and admit I’ve blown it, yet continue to wallow with the pigs. However if I’m going to stop eating pig food and replace it with feast food, I have to go where it’s served. To enjoy the Father’s forgiveness and His do-over grace, I have to go back.
The best part in the story is that when the prodigal son shows up at home again,the father doesn’t wait for him to say he is sorry. He just runs up to his son and starts hugging and kissing him before the son has a chance to talk. Even when the son says he is sorry, the father brushes aside his son’s confession. “But the father said to his servants: quick, bring the best robe for this son of mine is alive again. He is found.“
What matters most to the father is that the son has come back, not the son’s confession. It is as if the son’s returning was the confession. That’s amazing do-over grace. It’s the grace of relationship and intimacy that meets us in our brokenness, in our vulnerability, in our screw-ups, in our failures to do the right thing. God doesn’t make us grovel for forgiveness, but runs out to give us grace before we even have a chance to confess.
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is!
He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.
Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind,
had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.
Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.
What pleasure he took in planning this!)
He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Ephesians 1:6-8 [The Message]