Lent Reading: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Years ago, I was taught a helpful distinction between justice, mercy, and grace. Justice is getting what you deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve; grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Clever. I wonder, does it capture the heart of justice, mercy, grace? Can it?
Jesus tells the parable of the ‘Seeking Father’ (or ‘Prodigal Son’) to explain why he welcomed and taught ‘sinners’. In the story the younger son treated his father appallingly, and his family inheritance carelessly. His life away from home was shameful, culminating in his living in wretched, inhumane conditions. All this mess, entirely of his own making. As far as the first century audience would have understood, he got what he deserved. Justice.
When the younger son finally figured out, he should return home he said,
“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”
What was he asking from his father? Mercy. Mercy was the best the son dared hope for.
How did the father respond?
““But while he [younger son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him”
The father had more for his lost son, more than the son could believe. He had a father who sought him, wanted him. This is a father filled with compassion. A father who could forgive and embrace with incredible love. This son had a father who could let go of hurt and shame, to restore his son to the home and inheritance he squandered. This is grace, getting what you don’t deserve. Far, far more than you ever deserved.
Learn this from Jesus’ simple story of a lost son – our Heavenly Father has more grace for you. More than you will ask for, more than you know, more than you can imagine.