Monday/Wednesday 8:00am Ė 9:15am
Scripture is unique in that it can be broken up into distinctive groups, with distinctive purposes. There is didactic literature, or scripture that teaches, as well as poetry like that found in the psalms. There is narrative scripture, which tells us truth in story form that is pleasant to the ears and to the mind, and there is also apocalyptic literature, telling us the end from times long ago. Each and every portion of scripture, to steal from 2 Timothy 3, is useful for teaching and training in righteousness, as well as a rebuking and correcting.
To me, one of the most fantastic portions of scripture can be found in the Gospel According to Luke, the fifteenth chapter. Our chapel speaker on Tuesday, February 15 taught from this chapter, and asked the student body to reflect on the surpassingly reckless love that Christ has lavished upon us. As I have nothing more important by any means to reflect on than our Great Savior, I figured this would be an opportune time to once again consolidate my thoughts on the matter. It should be firstly stated, however, that I have done serious exegesis on this topic, and while that paper can be easily reproduced upon request (and hopefully an offer of extra credit ), that will not be the topic of this reflection.
There are three central figures in this parable; the Father (Godís representation), and his two sons (each representing a type of fallen humanity in relation to God). Since I am neither of the sons, it is only fitting that I reflect on the central and sole figure of creation; the Father. To give a quick overview, the Father is wronged in several ways. Firstly, his younger son deals a fatal blow to his father by requesting what he would only get upon his fatherís death, and then finished the job by leaving to be as far away from him as possibly. Later in the story, his older son deeply hurts him by publicly disgracing him at his party, and for all intents and purposes insinuating his father was a fool.
One key motif that we see in this parable, and itís a rather extraordinary motif, is that of forgiveness. Not forgiveness of something petty that the sons forgive, but the forgiveness of the Father in the midst of heart wrenchingly agonizing pain that causes one to stop and seriously consider for a minute what is actually taking place. No matter how many times I read it, and as I noted above, Iíve spent some hands on time with this parable, it simply never ceases to stop me in my tracks with astonishment.
On a daily basis I am wronged in some way or another: such is the way of the world. I can be cut off in traffic, someone can steal my parking spot, someone in power over me can mistreat me or someone can just say a mean thing. How easy it is to hold in the grudge, or to explode in your pain toward the one whom has hurt you, but so difficult it can be to offer a hand of friendship even in the midst of suffering. The thing that rebukes so heavily in this passage is the dichotomy between the intense pain felt by the father, and his readily available forgiveness, versus the relatively circumspect pain that is handed out daily often to be met with expletives or a slamming door.
Over the past few years, and much more rapidly the past few weeks, Iíve been undergoing refinement and conformity into the person of Jesus Christ, and even with all the major strides that have taken place inside me, I still have to admit that on some occasions I simply fail miserably in this respect. One of my admirable traits that God has developed in me is indeed forgiveness: Iím quite able to forgive easily those I donít know and to be a shining example toward the unknowing world. The problem I still see in myself though is that with the people I do know, I often require them to ask for forgiveness first, before forgiveness can take place.
Reflecting on this parable though, and seeing how forgiving God is represented in this firstly brings great joy to my heart, but secondly reprimands my failure in withholding forgiveness regardless of my reasons. I canít actually articulate to myself an example of where I would feel pain similar to what the Father must, but I simply know that whatever I feel certainly pales in comparison. The worst part, and yet the most uplifting part, is that this parable can be directly imposed over the reality of God and the Sinners.
Itís terrible for the reason that God Himself, as anyone who knows Him will declare, is simply merciful and loving, and of all the good people that have ever suffered, God deserves it the least. Yet, each soul that passes to judgment in front of him that isnít drying off from the washing of blood jabs his heart with a rusty knife and twists it a time or two before they fall backward into the lake of fire where the suffering of the Most High reaches its zenith.
Even though I have a new spirit, born anew and living, Iím still trapped in dead flesh and itís incredibly easy for me not to care about the plight of those who donít know God (though as my refining continues, itís becoming far more difficult to feel that way), while summarily going on my way. For Godís sake though, I canít simply sit around and wait for the world to go to hell in a hand basket, as the proverb goes, while He cries as the creation He loved enough to die for perishes into eternal separation and suffering. I never really cared for the Great Commission because I didnít care for the people I was supposed to preach to, but as I begin to gain a more intimate view of Godís heart, this commission is taking on a new meaning for me, and Iím gaining the ability to truly care for people: even if it is sometimes only because God loves them.
Ultimately, the reason I care so much for this parable is because it shows Godís character three-fold. It shows Him as the dignitary and holy King that He is, deserving the respect and love of all. It shows Him as the Loving Giant, whose love for us can create ten-thousand worlds, but it also shows Him as the Suffering Saint, whose head is adorned with tears. It has been spoken; a word from the Lord, that in Godís promise to wipe away every tear, the final tears to be wiped away will be His. After considering this three-fold character representation, and seeing His suffering anew, I canít help myself but to mourn, and do everything in my power to save a few tears from falling from His eyes.