Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This well-loved passage from Luke 15 reminds us of God exuberant love for each of us.
Luke 15: 17-24 (AMP)
“But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe [for the guest of honor] and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand, and sandals for his feet. And bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let us [invite everyone and]feast and celebrate; for this son of mine was[as good as] dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Two important words give clues to the meaning of this perfect story of grace: prodigal and reckless. Both are usually used t0 describe the son’s behavior; he was a spendthrift who squandered his fortune. And his antics while he was in the far off land were reckless. Various translations of this scripture passage describe him as “dissolute” and “dissipated” and “undisciplined.” He was wild and careless, and in the end he paid dearly.
But these same words can also be used to describe his father: He, too was a prodigal. His love was extravagant, his mercy beyond reason (especially in the eyes of his other son). His grace was reckless. Our word “reckless” is related to one of the meanings of “reckon:” to count. When we say that God’s (and the father’s) love was reckless, we means that God does not count our sins and hold them against us or demand repayment. Jesus has already paid for them.
In the book The Good and Beautiful Community, James Bryan Smith says, “The finality of the cross is that God – in Christ – is not counting our sins against us. God stopped counting and apparently never took it back up. God is no longer dealing with us on the basis of our sins, but of our faith.”
Much as we like to think that we earn God’s favor by our good deeds and religious behavior, the only thing left for us to do in the face of Christ’s gift is to accept the grace and celebrate, as the younger son did.
♥ Much of the time we all take this amazing grace for granted. Write a prayer of gratitude to God for the kind of love that looks at us and sees Jesus. Pray it every day.
♥ Are you living the life of the prodigal son (wasting time, being a poor steward of money and other blessings God has given you, trusting the wrong people, refusing to delay gratification and giving in to your desires.)? This is what the younger son said when he recognized that his behavior would grieve his father: “ I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just]treat me like one of your hired men.”’ Picture yourself walking the dusty road toward home, eyes down, with despair in your heart.Then imagine God running to greet you with reckless love and celebration at your return. What will you say to that God?
♥ We are expected to show this reckless, prodigal love to others. From whom are you estranged? Who do you avoid because of your bad relationship? Who needs your forgiveness? From whom do you need to ask forgiveness? No matter who caused the rift between you, take that first step to mend these relationships. Step out and offer grace.
♥ How do we respond to God’s reckless love? With songs and praises and hallelujahs! Listen to some of your favorite worship and praise songs or hymns this week. With a heart overflowing with gratitude! Give some of that love away this week. With the hope that your family and friends are surrounded by this same love! Talk about the reckless love of God to someone this week: your children or grandchildren, parents, neighbor, friend or co-worker.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to ‘reckon’ or count his sin against him or demand repayment . . . In this story the father represents the Heavenly Father Jesus knew so well . . . . Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children. God’s reckless grace is our greatest hope . . . .” (Tim Keller in The Prodigal God).