PRODIGAL SON: The Difference Between Grace And Love

My Writing

The Difference Between Grace And Love by Julia Marks

So the words were flying around.

Faith.

Works.

Salvation.

Wesley and Calvin were mentioned.

Both faith or works?  Or one at a time, one ruling over the other?

It was all a pat decision.

Salvation is based on faith AND works.

Yipee.

What do you think, Julia?

Well, I don’t follow either Wesley or Calvin.

And it’s God who is in charge of salvation.

In my own (one of these days it might get to be) humble opinion.

What?

That’s right.  Man isn’t in charge of his own salvation.

If it’s works, I call that ham Christianity: the occasion that after all I have done for you, God, now I get my plaque certifying my salvation.  (As one gets a ham at Christmas for work well done.)

And faith can be so many things: a rope that pulls you out of the water you are drowning in, a weight that you drag behind you wanting it to keep up with you as you speed down life’s highway.  It can be a thought.  An emotion.  An action.  It can be everywhere, or just there, in the tiny corner of your heart.

And if you want salvation to be based on faith, then tell it to Saint Paul.

Chiming response: Well, Paul had to have faith to have accepted the vision he received from God in order to be saved.

Salvation was there for Paul before his “fall.”  God’s love for him is what felled him.  It was God’s salvation of him that was chasing after him.

Well, then, Julia, you must think that salvation is a grace.

Well, no, actually I don’t.

Grace is a gift.  A pure gift.  From God.

And within the concept of grace is the mini-concept of “no.”  In that, God does not have to give this grace.  He is in choice.

Just as we are in choice when we give gifts to our family and friends gifts.  A daughter asks for a pony for Christmas, and the answer is, no.  But there’s the gift of the bicycle, instead.  The gift is there.

And then there’s the person who does not give gifts.

Giving is an option.

Are these people who like to wrangle with theological terms really suggesting that God “gives” us salvation?  That forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation are somehow gifts?

That they are optionally granted us?

Chiming response: Forgiveness?  Not unless it is deserved!

I would like to take the time right here and now to boast that my head did not explode upon hearing these words.

Deserved?

If anyone of us waited to be deserving of God’s forgiveness, who would ever be forgiven?

Let’s talk prodigal son.  Was his forgiveness deserved?  All he had to do was walk home and be seen by his father to be forgiven.

A person may apologize and atone for his transgressions, but forgiveness is not dependent on those things.  Forgiveness can precede an apology.  It can be accomplished without atonement.

But it’s not a grace.

Because, in a way, there is no, “no,” in forgiveness.

There may be, “not at this time” in the concept of forgiveness.  But there really is no, will-I-or-won’t-I, pony-or-bicycle, in it.

It’s either there or it isn’t.  And the possibility to forgive is always with us.  It’s an attainment that we can aspire to.

Not sit in our comfy chair and consider whether we want to or not.

Back to the prodigal son.

The love that the father shows the son is absolute.  It’s not changeable.  It is not something to be decided upon.

It’s there.

The absolute ground that the father stands on.

Just as God stands absolutely on the ground of love.

His judgment of us is an absolute matter.  Not an option.

And our freedom to repent is always with us.  It’s not a gift from God.  And it’s not a gift we give to God.

It’s an action that rights our relationship with God.

So the prodigal son repents.

The father forgives.

The father’s gift of a slaughtered calf is grace.

But restoring to the son his place in the home is love.

Funny, but there’s no faith there.  Neither is there works.

The son’s salvation is an absolute reality.  It exists throughout all time and space.

Amen.

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