Luke 15 gives us three of Jesus’ most famous parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The three stories are strung together by Jesus to emphasize a common theme- the restoration of the lost. I had the privilege to teach these to my Sunday school kids and my Wednesday night kids recently, but I had a flash of insight on the stories.
Is Jesus talking about the lost finding salvation or Christians who stray and are restored? The answer is both. The sheep and the coin represent the lost who come to Christ for the first time. They didn’t purposely get lost- they just were, and in each case, there is a search and an honest desire to return the lost items to their place. We are born with a sin nature. We don’t have to intentionally do anything to end up lost, and we’re powerless to prevent it. But God found us and restored us to our place, in a relationship with Him that was lost when Adam sinned.
Now the boy is a different situation. He is a son and he willfully chooses to walk away from his father. The father doesn’t search for him. He watches and waits, ready to receive him. The boy comes to himself, in humility recognizes what a mess he’s in (literally and figuratively), has a change of heart and wants restoration. That’s what the father was waiting for! The fact that the boy came home is all the evidence the father needs to restore him, not just to the family, but the line about ‘put a ring on his finger’ indicates the boy was once again made a joint heir with his elder brother. It was as if he had never left.
When we as believers walk away from God, He doesn’t search for us, but waits for that genuine change of heart. When we drag ourselves back in humility and repentance, our gracious Father takes us in His arms before we can finish our speech.
Grace is a risky business, after all, what’s to stop the boy from leaving again? Not a thing. The father loves the son and yearns for that relationship, that communion so deeply that to him, it’s a risk worth taking. Sometimes we are hesitant to extend grace because of that risk. We’re afraid. When we see others with the eyes of Christ, we will love more, and fear less.
Is there a relationship in your life in which God is calling you to risk grace?