“Grace is given so that it can be lived. That was the memo the elder brother of the prodigal son missed.” (Laurie Short, Finding Faith in the Dark, p.151)
Laurie Short drives it home. Grace comes as both a gift to us…and through us. We receive a fresh start so we can give a fresh start.
We struggle to think in these terms. Somewhere within us, our system of justice insists that people get (or should get) what they deserve. “What goes around comes around.” We believe this deeply; more deeply than we may realize.
Merit matters to us. Good people deserve a break. Bad people deserve nothing. Tit for tat is only right, in marriages and marketplace alike.
This thinking has marked humanity for eons. Even Job in the Old Testament found himself surrounded by a wife and friends who, much as they liked him, concluded he must have done something terrible to suffer as he did. He might as well just “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
But grace doesn’t function like that.
“Grace, by its very nature, is unexpected. It’s the last thing you think you’ll get. It’s a party when you expect to be punished, and acceptance when you’re used to being shunned.” (Short, p.125)
Grace. It’s a great word for a new year. It means rising above retribution and resisting the urge to retaliate. It means choosing to bless, not curse (see Romans 12:14). It means extending to others the same forgiveness that we ourselves have received (Colossians 3:13) — undeserved, unhesitating, and complete.
Grace is a game-changer for us and those around us. It’s not soft, weak, or easy. Don’t let anyone suggest that grace is for the feeble-minded. Just the opposite. It stretches us beyond our natural inclinations. It changes everything within us and around us.
Laurie Short concluded that “grace was the memo that the older brother of the prodigal son missed.” Let’s not miss it ourselves. Let’s resolve, by God’s grace, to freely give that which we have freely received. Therein lies freedom for our marriages, families, churches, workplaces …and our own hearts.