On the way to school last week, my son, Will, spotted a house that was decked out with pumpkins, skeletons and spiderwebs. Will has a way of making dry yet amusing observations, especially for a six-year-old.
Life is full of irony and paradoxes. My dictionary defines paradox as something that “seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth,” and suggests that an “essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which is occurs.”
Last week I went in Best Buy with a broken camera and a broken cell phone, and an hour later I walked out with…a broken camera and a broken cell phone. Actually it wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t merely that three wild and destructive little guys were in tow. Something about contracts and upgrades, and finally “oh fooey, I’ll have to come back.” But since the four of us spent a good sixty minutes in there, I had ample opportunity to consider the banners hanging from the rafters. You, Happier.
The prodigal son is one of my favorite Bible stories. It is so rich that it seems there’s a fresh insight every time I read it or hear it taught. If you haven’t read it recently, and by recently I mean sometime today, take a minute and savor it. (Luke 15:11-32).
Could there be a better picture of grace? There’s just something ingrained in us that gravitates toward hearts that forgive, toward souls that love regardless of performance. Does it melt your heart that the father sees him while he is still a long way off? And when he spots his son he takes off running to meet him. Running. Have you ever seen a middle-aged man running to greet a son? I never have. I’ve witnessed reunions of families I do not know in airports. My eyes have stung to see a father cling to his son, so proud, so filled with joy to fold him into his arms again. But none of us has ever witnessed a reunion like Jesus describes.
First of all, I don’t know anyone who demanded their inheritance early, received it without reservation, and then squandered it in Vegas. And in our humanness it is very difficult to imagine that when the What-Happens-in-Vegas-Stays-in-Vegas dude crawls home to Daddy he receives a warm reception, a downright bash thrown in his honor. No questions asked. No condemnation. No disapproving looks. No lectures. We cannot fathom it because it is not a human story.
It is a supernatural story about divine grace. We are the lost children. God is the loving father, watching for us, waiting patiently, spotting us while we are yet a long way off. He runs to us, and even when we’ve made a total mess of our lives, His heart is filled with compassion. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, what we’ve squandered away, He throws his arms around us and He kisses us.
Even though the parable is primarily about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, there is much we can apply to our earthly relationships. It was pointed out to me the other day that the father in the parable kisses the son before the son even has a chance to give his spiel about sinning against heaven and his dad. Isn’t that indicting? What if the next time someone wrongs you, you kiss them and throw your arms around them even before they have a chance to explain themselves. In fact, how about just once forgiving someone without a single condition, without a single demand. Now, that’s grace. Isn’t it fun to think about how that person would react?
By power of the Spirit, I am determined to try it. I’ll let you know how it goes.
And even though I never can get any of you to comment, I sure would love to hear about your own kiss of grace.