Unwarranted Favor

September 22, 2018

Luke 15:23-24… And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this, my son, was dead, and he is alive again. He was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate.

            This is from the story of the Prodigal Son. This is the reaction of the father when the wayward son returned home. As a parable, it is told to make a point. The point that is made is that the father is very glad when the wayward son returns home. It tells us about the heart of God. It is a heartwarming story.

            I have 3 children and 7 grand children. If any one of them went away from my love, I would rejoice if they returned. So, on that level, I get it. But, I have to say, honestly, that this story has always bothered me. My sense of fairness tells me that the wayward son should not be rewarded. He should be expected to pay some kind of penance for his indiscretion. But, because this story s about God… I am not free to judge. He is love and love is defined by Him. He is not defined by my worldly view of love. Love reaches out to people regardless of what they have done.

            And, really, am I any different from the Prodigal Son?  I have done things completely opposed to the love of God given to me. Do I want to be lovingly welcomed home if I repent or do I want to have to pay for my mistakes?  

            One aspect of this story that is sometimes ignored is that the son went home. He did not stay in the foreign country and call the father asking for more money. That might be a common scenario. Money and food were his immediate needs but his deeper need was relationship with his father. “Repentance” is not letting go of one thing and reaching out for something different; It is letting go of everything and reaching out for God. When you sin willingly, you are separated from God. You are on the path to death. That is what stirs the heart of God. Notice the words of the father, “My son was dead and he is alive again.”

He didn’t say, “He was dead to me.” Just, “He was dead.” Jesus carefully and perfectly chose His words. As I write today, I realize I really like this story. If you are judging the father… stop! You, and I, need love. We may want, but don’t need, fairness. Can we let go of that want? Love is greater.