“I am really tired of waiting for my father to die,” the son thought to himself. “I want my inheritance and I want it now.” Sadly, his father gave in to his son’s selfish plans and before the astonished eyes of everybody in the household, the son took off.
He had plenty of money for his trip so he went to a far land. He did not want to be watched nor helped by his family. He enjoyed to the fullest his new freedom and lived the life he had always dreamed of… parties, friends, sin… He delighted in the results of years of hard work by his father, wasting it all on a lifestyle totally opposite to that of his dad.
But living la vida loca is expensive. The day came when he ran out of money. The parties ended and, just by coincidence, a famine struck the land. The son soon found himself without work, without food and, of course, without friends.
He finally got a job feeding pigs. For a Jewish boy there was no more humiliating work. He even wanted to steal the pigs’ food and eat it himself.
I love the phrase “he came to himself”1 The kid finally got a clue and decided to look for work in his father’s house. After a long, dusty walk, the son arrived back at home. When his father saw him, there was no chewing out or well-earned sermon. He didn’t even allow his son to mention being a household servant. He just hugged his stinky kid, put the best robe on him, put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. The fatted cow was killed and the father organized a huge feast. The selfish, sinful, shameless son that had hurt his father so
badly was received as if he were royalty.
Grace… very expensive for the father, free for the son.
Ready for another one?
Joseph’s brothers hated him and caustically sold him into slavery to some nomads. Later, a series of circumstances landed him in the dungeon in Egypt. People didn’t usually get out of dungeons in Egypt. Those were some pretty terrible conditions for a dreamer. However, when God changed his life and elevated Joseph, he told his brothers, “you thought evil against me; but God made it into good.”2 He knew that his brothers wanted to hurt him as much as humanly possible, but his faith in God led him to forgive them.
Grace- very expensive for Joseph, very good for his brothers. Recently I was told about a man who had left God and was living in sin with his girlfriend. The guy was 28 years old. “How should we treat him?” I was asked. “Stun him with grace,” I answered. “If he were 8 years old, you would have to ‘train up the child in the way he should go’3– but at 28 it is different. You could try the world’s tools so that he could “see what he has done”, but that is NOT what God is doing. God is watching to see if he comes home. Jesus is interceding for him. With ‘cords of love’ He is bringing him back.4 Love him. Receive him. Let him know that there is nothing that he can do to make you love him less nor is there anything he can do to make you love him more. He has really hurt you, but forgiving 490 times5 is not a maximum, it is a minimum.”
We are not authorized to use the weapons of the flesh- shame, intimidation and guilt. The Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement.6 Let’s allow the Spirit do His work. Godly sorrow produces repentance.7 Let Him do His work without interference.
I have been wounded in the house of my friends many times. When a loved one, like the prodigal or like Joseph’s brothers hurts us, it is hard to forgive and extend grace. Grace is always expensive… for the one who gives it. It is going to cost me, but I have to pay the price and allow others to go scot-free.
1- Luke 15:17 2- Genesis 50:20 3- Proverbs 22:6 4- Hosea 11:4 5- Romans 2:4 6- Matthew 18:22 7- John 16:8 8- 2 Corinthians 7:10