Bible story shows ‘outrageous love’

Rick Cole

Rick Cole

How do you picture God? Do you picture him kind and generous? Do you picture him as a parent who has always loved you deeply, even when you had left him and were far from home?

One of the greatest stories that Jesus ever told involved a father and a son. The son decides to take a long, hard look at his life, and comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t need what ol’dad has to offer anymore and decides to have a go at being on his own, do his own things for awhile. So he basically tell dad that he can’t wait till he dies to get his inheritance so could he have it now.

Surprisingly, the dad agrees, gives him the money and sees him off.

As the story goes, the son, having thrown off the constrains of his father’s authority, begins to live a pretty wild life and winds up blowing the whole wad on “wild living.” You can fill in what that would be for you if you were in the same situation. He finally runs out of cash and his friends run out on him to look for some other party. He is now at the point that he is going to have to work or starve to death.

When you are desperate, you’ll look to do whatever you can, so he gets a job at the local pig farm. The bad thing is that he comes to realize that the pigs have got a better deal than he does. So he begins to think about home and how good he had it there.

He doesn’t seem particularly sorry that he ran out on his father who had been dead to him all this time. He doesn’t seem to be thinking about the irresponsibilty of his decision or that maybe he broke dad’s heart. In fact, when you look at it , it doesn’t seem that he considers his father any more that a meal ticket. He comes to the decision to go home because he knows that he can get three square meals a day there. And I suppose when you’re starving that’s reason enough.

He sets out for home, and on the way rehearses a speech that he has written which he hopes will soften the old man’s heart towards him.

You’ve probably been there. Most of us know what things to say to get to those who know us whether we mean them or not.

The son rehearses that fact that he’s made a big mistake, he was wrong, and for an extra bit of clout says that he’s not even worthy to be called a son anymore. So he practices so as to say it just right. But just about the time he thinks he has it down, his father spots him from the top of the hill and starts running towards him like a maniac. Before the son has a chance to say anything at all, dad throws his arms around him, and knocks him off his feet with tears and begins to laugh for joy at his son’s return.

In the culture that this story was written, this was an almost unforgivable display by the father, a reaction that would disgrace him in front of his family and friends. But you know that’s the kind of God, Jesus is pointing to.

For of course, that is really what story was about, God’s love for those who run away from him, stop believing in him and consider him dead.

Outrageous love. It’s love that can’t be earned. It is love that isn’t deserved. It’s the kind of love that we would say is too good to be true. And though you may have known God for a long time, maybe you’ve never quite experienced the depth of this outrageous love.

We simply are not accustomed to the brand of love God offers. We often assume, if we believe in him, that a holy God would be more irritated, disappointed, or even furious with our imperfections and yes, sins.

Like the son in the story, God offers to embrace us with a love that is without regard to what we deserve.

That’s what Christianity refers to as grace. It is its unique feature. I don’t know about you but I find this outrageous love perplexing and unerving because it doesn’t opperate according to our idea of what is fair.

To that I just shake my head and say thank you. What’s your response?