(9 of 11 in a series)
Jesus told a parable – a story that illustrates a spiritual truth – about a lost son. As the story goes, a wealthy landowner had two sons. The younger son requested his share of the inheritance from his father so he could set out on his own. The father agreed and the younger son took the money and headed off to a far away country. After squandering his inheritance on loose living, the son ended up working on a hog farm in a time of famine and was in the process of starving to death. When the son came to his senses, he said, “My father’s servants are treated so much better than this. I will go to my father. I will throw myself on his mercy. I will offer to become a servant and work off the money I wasted.” So the son returned home.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Jesus paints a picture of a lovesick father waiting and yearning for his lost son to come home. When the son returns, the father sees him from afar, is overwhelmed with compassion, runs to embrace him, kisses him, and announces a feast in his honor. He will have nothing to do with his son’s plan to pay off the debt, but instead proclaims to all who will hear, “Rejoice with me. My son who was as good as dead has come back to life. My son who was lost has been found.”
Let’s stop the tape right here and say, “Wait just a minute.” Are we to believe that after squandering his father’s money and inflicting the emotional pain of leaving without a trace, that all is forgiven? What about working off the debt? What about some probationary period to make sure the son’s change of heart is genuine? And is Jesus’ parable really suggesting that this “unfairness of grace” is a picture of how God, the Father, accepts us?
That, my friends, is the absolute unadulterated beauty of the Christian message! When we change our minds about Jesus Christ and embrace His message, all is forgiven. There is no probationary period. There is no “good works” requirement of being better than my neighbor, giving money to a church, or performing any acts of penance. To our calculating and cynical minds this is too good to be true. That is the uniqueness of the Christian message. And this grace is being offered to you right now.
When you strip away the media caricature of Christianity, when you strip away the uninformed biases we have heard all of our lives about Christianity, at the heart of the Christian message is the story of a lovesick Father rejoicing in and accepting without reservation the person who embraces His message of good news. And the good news is this: Jesus Christ died for your sin problem and offers to set you free from its power.