“The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’” – Luke 15: 21-22 (NRSV)
Imagine knowing nothing about Christianity and hearing an evangelist say: “Grace and forgiveness are free, unconditional gifts of God for those who repent and believe.”
You might interject, “Wait, didn’t you just say it was free and unconditional?”
Excellent question. If we must do something, including repenting and believing, to leverage grace, it’s not grace. Grace, by definition, is something we did not—and could not—merit.
That’s why the parable of the prodigal child is so scandalous, especially to American Christians steeped in meritocracy. Totally uninterested in the child’s well-rehearsed apology, the parent in the parable lavishes robes and riches upon their child who “was lost and has been found.”
“Prodigal,” means “wastefully extravagant.” We usually apply that to the heartless, reckless kid blowing through his inheritance on loose living. But the child is totally outmatched by the extravagant, wasteful grace of the parent.
In addition to re-naming this the “parable of the prodigal parent,” let’s give eternal thanks for the lavish, unconditional love of God who runs out to meet us and welcomes us home.
Parent of All Life, I have sinned you and against your creation. I am no longer worthy to— [You can stop. You have already been embraced by Divine Love and clothed with heavenly threads.]