And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, '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 servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate - Luke 15:20-24
I often dance around the idea of denominations. I've been Pentecostal and I guess Evangelical. I was practically dipping a toe in the waters of reformed theology before I landed in the area of Lutheranism. The passage above is one of the reasons I feel I fit best here in Lutheranism (though some may accuse me of being "Lutheran-ish"), and I'll try to explain that a little further down. I believe God has called the world, the whole world and he wants to restore everyone, even though some will eventually reject him. I'm not going to argue about predestination and who God decided to save or send to hell. I'm going to say:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. - John 3:16-17
He so loved the world, that He gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish. For me, this is clearly demonstrated in the story of the prodigal son. A son, who rejected and despised his Father, so much like the world does with God now. He hated him so much that he was verbalizing his hope that his father would die when he said, "give me my inheritance." How much time went by in the home as the son waited impatiently for the father to sell his assets and count up his share? How much pleading would the father have done during that time to try to convince his son to stay and consider the cost? How much weeping would there be as the father falls to his knees as his son walks out, rejecting his pleas, probably never to be seen again? How much work was left to his servants as the father would check often for the hopeful return of his wayward boy? For he so loved his son... that he would give everything up to have him back.
This passage of the prodigal son, shows me the limitless outpouring of God's grace. Grace that is calling and eagerly wanting a return from all who are astray and ALL ARE ASTRAY. Regardless of repentance, Grace is waiting. Grace is waiting like the father waiting for his prodigal son. He's looking for him. Grace is not just waiting but applied. We see this when the father puts aside all traditions and appearances and punishments deserved of the son and runs toward him to the awkward embarrassment of his peers around him. He doesn't wait for the son to finish his speech, He doesn't look to see if he really means it. Before barely a word of repentance can be shared between them, he is restored and there is a party in his honor. This is what grace is and this is what grace does. Grace is God opening eyes and ears. Grace empowers humility and humility bends a knee.
For the record, I'm not saying repentance isn't needed. I'm saying repentance is an intended by-product. Anything we do is a by-product of what God is always doing and not just a wooden obedient response expected from us. God saves and when he does, he does it by grace. Its grace that brings us to repentance. It's kindness that leads to a bent knee. We never bend a knee in order to get something from God. We bend a knee because God has given us, love, forgiveness, mercy as he showers us with even more grace. Like the prodigal son, we will never get enough right words out of our mouths before he puts a ring on our finger, and throws a feast on our behalf. Even our words of repentance are forgiven and washed in the blood of Christ.
Grace is waiting to welcome you. The you that is stinking of pigs and garbage. Grace is yours with no strings attached. Whether at the end of a punishment or the beginning. Whether you hide away or run away. Please, Christian, non-Christian or anyone who feels unloved, unwanted and completely undone, listen to author, Brennan Manning, describe his life under grace:
"My life is a witness to vulgar grace —a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief's request—"Please, remember me" and assures him, "You bet!" A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father's side not for heaven's sake but for our sakes, yours and mine. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion." - All Is Grace
Grace is waiting...
It is waiting for each of you.
Let God embrace you, love you, put a ring on your finger and make your clothes white. Let him hold a feast in your honor. God is giving you the gift of faith to do that. He is giving you the faith to trust Christ to make you new.
This is what Jesus does.
He does this for some of us, everyday...
and when he does, we take a knee in humble repentance for the grace given to us.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?