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How Do You Respond to the Kindness of God?
And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ - Luke 15:31-32, ESV
Most people - religious or non-religious - are very uncomfortable with how Jesus defines and describes the kindness of God. In this most famous story Jesus ever told - the most famous short story in the history of the world - the kindness of God is on display in surprising ways from beginning to end:
1. The Father (who represents God) actually grants his younger son's request to receive his inheritance ahead of time. The younger son is basically telling his dad that he wishes he was dead, and the dad gives him what he desires.
2. The Father watches for his son's return, which is how he sees him coming a long way off.
3. The Father runs to meet his son, instead of simply waiting on the front porch.
4. The Father honors the younger son with warm affection, an embrace and a kiss.
5. The Father honors the younger son with dignity and honor, the best robe and a ring on his hand.
6. The Father honors the younger son with generosity and celebration, killing the fattened calf and throwing a banquet.
7. The Father sought out the angry older son when he refused to come into the banquet.
8. The Father responded to the older son's anger and selfish complaining with kindness and reassurances of his love.
9. The Father lovingly invites the older son to join in the celebration of his younger brother's return.
Every step of the way, this radically strong kindness is offensive, both to the religious and the non-religious. The religious, represented by the older brother, are offended that God would be so recklessly kind and forgiving and accepting of immoral, rebellious, wasteful people. The non-religious, represented by the younger son, are offended that Jesus thinks they need such kindness and forgiveness from God. They think they're just fine without such kindness. They resent being portrayed as so needy.
But God's kindness remains rich and full for religious and non-religious people, whether we are offended by it or not. God is generous and often gives rebellious people what they ask for, being kind and gracious to even the hardest of rebels. God is patient and re-assuring, even to self-righteous religious people who think they deserve better because they've been so good and faithful.
In the Gospel, through Jesus Christ, God does indeed receive and rejoice in the rebellious who return and repent and are redeemed. In the Gospel, God also confronts the religious with their self-righteousness ad calls them into the same banquet of grace. The question for the religious and the rebellious alike is the same: Will we respond to the gracious invitation of the Father? Will we enter into the banquet prepared by Jesus for us?
The kindness of God is offensive to both the religious and non-religious because they think they do not need it. If we will see our need, then we will no longer be offended but thankful and welcomed and redeemed!
Prayer Based on Psalm 128:
Oh Lord, how much You bless everyone who fears You,
who walk in Your ways!
We fear You only because You have taught us to fear You,
and we walk in Your ways only by Your grace.
We eat the fruit of the labor of our hands;
we are blessed by Your undeserved kindness, and it is well with us.
You bless us abundantly in many ways,
physically and spiritually-
with life and health and joy and kindness in this life
and eternal joy in Your presence forever!
May You continue to bless us!
May we see the prosperity of Your holy city, the church,
all the days of our lives!
May we live see our children's children walking in faith with You!
Peace be upon Your people forever!
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