As the youngest of three sisters, I have always been especially moved by the Parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke. As a child, I often found myself angry that my parents did not seem to punish my sisters for misbehaving. Of course, I myself never misbehaved (as I’m sure most teen girls believe about themselves), so when my strict parents castigated me, it felt extremely unfair.
The “deserve” game is a dangerous one, of course. As Christians we receive the gift of grace–getting something (redemption) for nothing, and despite our sinful ways. Indeed, the father’s remark about the prodigal son—“he was lost and is found”—reminds us of the familiar “Amazing Grace.”
Holding a grudge can feel satisfying on its face, but quickly becomes a mentally exhausting and fruitless exercise. Of course, that does not stop us from doing it. We all have times or seasons of wandering away from the fold. Perhaps we are angry with our circumstances, or envious of a coworker or friend’s outward successes.
I have no shortage of those times in my own life, and returning back to a path of receiving grace—releasing jealousy or anger or any of the other all-consuming sinful feelings of “this is unfair”—is always accompanied by a feeling of relief and peace. The prophet Micah tells us about a God who, thankfully, does not hold a grudge: “He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency.”
Being together united in Christ is the ultimate “reward,” far more important than a fatted cow (or perhaps in more understandable terms of today, a raise, a fancy car, or a new house). The 103rd Psalm reminds us “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.” Thank God that is the case.
Quin Woodward Pu
Links to the appointed readings for today: