Today I’ll share a thought on the topic of grace, though not the final one. People find grace to be a commodity, as something that they expect in return, if one should be “kind” enough to give it. In this current generation, we observe the glories of capitalism and the philanthropy of the rich – both great things in an of themselves – and we inadvertently attribute grace to some sort of “money system”. Grace, far from being a gift that expects nothing in return, becomes something given to people close to the giver, a friend or family member; grace given to strangers is grace “wasted”.
Now, whether you are of faith or not, the Bible is still a source of great knowledge, and can shed some light on perfect grace.
'There is a story where two sons live under a wealthy, wealthy father. The younger son gets the idea that he is ready for living on his own, that he can make a name for himself without his father's shadow. Thus, father lets his son disown him and takes off for a far-off land, where he spends it like a child eats sweets. When he spent it all, he became very low, and was forced to feed pigs to make a wage. He earned so little, and was so hungry, that he wanted to eat the pods that the pigs fed on. Thus, he decided to beg his father to take him back – not as a son, for he destroyed that bridge when he called his father dead – as a farm-hand. Even while the younger son was far away, he saw his father running to him. His father would not hear his excuses, his plea... all he needed to hear was “Father, I have sinned against...you. I am not longer worthy to be called your son-” before he embraced his son, and brought him back into glory. '
In my eyes, this is the most graceful thing a person can do. Of course, much like a perfect gas, there can never be this occurrence. There will always be, since we are human, and thus so attached to this world, some pent-up rage in the father (or sadness, rejection, refusal, etc.) is to be expected. Most earthly fathers would, at the instant the son left, pronounce the son dead and lost. At best, I would expect myself to be like the man who gave the younger son the job of feeding pigs; being the owner of pigs doesn't make the man very rich, but he could tell this young man needed help more than he did, so he took him in. Whether he knows the man or not matters little. But the father in this story, now estranged by his son, rebuilt the bond that was broken.
Again, I’m doing everything in my power to refrain from putting the Christian ideal of the personal God into this post. This above paragraph should resonate with anyone who reads it as a message of ultimate grace – a perfection which humanity can seldom achieve, but still strives for. Grace that doesn't ask for anything in return, even the love of the person embraced by grace. In every case of grace I have heard, it's something to do with forgiveness. In this complex world we live in, that forgiveness always comes at an expectation that the forgiven party brings something in return, or continues to be penitent, or working off the damage done. Could Grace simply be, Forgiveness minus the mute or vocal expectation of the work to repair the damage?
Could the younger son have come back to the father, asking for a lesser kind of grace?
Could the father be giving the son pure forgiveness, grace without impurity?
In my next post, I will bring God into this equation of Grace, and talk about why I feel this “Superior Grace” is necessary.