What If the Prodigal was Repetitious
- July 02, 2021
- Lori Travers
While recently socializing on my front porch with a few neighbors the topic of the prodigal son parable that Jesus told came up. Four of us were long-time believers in Jesus Christ. One was raised in another faith, but curious about Christianity. As we shared our perspectives on the well-known parable, we each offered where we felt we could see ourselves, whether the rebellious younger brother, the legalistic older brother, or the loving Father. Of course we admitted though we have seen ourselves in all three characters, it’s the Father’s lavish love we tended to fall sadly short of, yet we desired it the most.
Anyway, one man on my porch explained step-by-step what occurred in the story to the non-Christian woman. When he got to the end, she looked at him and simply asked, “What if the prodigal goes and does it again?”
WHAT IF HE DID IT AGAIN?
Sometimes I think we miss the point of the gospel itself, never mind the meaning of the parable. How many of us truly understand grace? Oh, we talk it! But do we really understand this lavish love…this prodigal God, if you will (thank you, Timothy Keller)? I mean I’d like to believe I’m a grace-filled person, redeemed and made new by the power and love of Jesus Christ, and I can give out this grace as simply as God gave it to me. But practically speaking, if I’m being brutally honest, I see myself reverting back to my upbringing…my family of origin’s “faith”…which says “If you do this, then God will do that” or “If you sin one too many times, the wrath of God will be upon you” or “You’ve gone too far this time for God to redeem you.” But, see, I have to go back to the cross when my mind returns to that vomit. I want grace for myself, but, boy, do I have a hard time extending that grace when a fellow human stumbles for the 78th time!
But what does the Father actually do when one wayward son returns? He gives his son a ring, apparently signifying his place, once again, as an heir. The Father places a robe on his back, clothing him with his very best. And those new sandals! Just the right shoes for the welcome home party being thrown in the prodigal son’s honor so he could dance the night away! Now THAT is grace. THAT is a demonstration of grace so costly and elaborate, that sometimes it just doesn’t feel right…or fair. But grace isn’t fair and it isn’t free. It’s just been freely given to us who believe.
So, yeah, if that wayward son packed his bags for another road trip, guess who would be waiting for his return once again? The Father loved him THAT much. And YES. HE loves us THAT much.
So, how do we incorporate THAT much grace into our own lives so that it flows out of us in a most natural way? I think the answer lies in the parable itself. When the older brother takes issue with all the hoopla surrounding his sinful sibling, the Father responds in quite an earthshaking way. He says, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31) If I am a child of God, then HE is always with me and I possess everything! I can stop living like an outcast, a servant, or an outsider. I have a Father who would give anything to buy me back (He DID…just look at the cross of Christ). I can put my insecurities aside as I bask in the abundance flowing from my Father’s house. If I find all necessary “wealth” (my security, power for living, joy, peace, etc) is at my disposal, then I don’t have to demand it from my fellow human being…”all things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21).
Until we get a grip on how far we all fall from the perfection that Jesus exemplified, we will never believe that the gospel is quite enough to cover the sins of those who fail over and over again. We’ll look down upon, cast our stones, and shake our heads unless and until we can honestly say along with John, “See what great love the Father lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
May we celebrate the return of the prodigal in ourselves and also in others.