Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?” “No one, Master.” “Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
–John 8:10-11 MSG
Coming of age, the young boy lets his father know that it’s time to strike out on his own. “Give me my inheritance so I can make my mark in the world” (Luke 15:11-12, my paraphrase). So, the father divided his property and the boy left home. Squandering his father’s hard work and goodness, this kid spent everything he had on wild living ending up with a job feeding pigs and not enough pay to even feed himself. When he came to his senses… the boy decided that at least working for Dad wouldn’t be as bad as his current predicament. So, he got up and went to his father.
Why include the lost son in our Lenten meditations? In the story of the lost son and the woman caught in adultery, we meet an unexpected picture of our heavenly Father. And we catch glimpses of ourselves in the mirror. The older brother, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, could not live in the tension between law and grace. Lawbreakers should be punished. It’s that simple. Grace must be for the ones who remain loyal to the rules. Testing Jesus (same word as in Matthew 4:1), the Pharisees were hoping to incriminate Jesus in some way, willing to destroy the woman in the process. The older brother just couldn’t accept his father’s scandalous generosity.
I suspect all of us want to meet a God who willingly forgives and restores when we need it. But what of those in our lives who we think don’t deserve forgiveness? When we catch a glimpse of God’s goodness in their lives, how do we feel? Are we grateful, or is there a twinge of irritation that God would treat them well? When God showed mercy to Nineveh, Jonah pouted like a spoiled brat. Sorry to say, I sometimes react that way, too. Maybe you have had similar reactions?
Lent calls us to explore what it means to be forgiven by God and what forgiveness looks like in our relationships and church communities. As we seriously consider giving up something for Lent, may I suggest considering letting go of offenses or grudges? Forgiveness can be a primary call to “give something up for Lent” by letting go of things that may be damaging our relationships—things done to us, by us, or between us. While this is a big challenge that could take time, the truth of Easter is that forgiveness is possible.
I need daily forgiveness more than I need someone to understand where I’m coming from. At the same time, I need to forgive, to no longer hold something against those I feel deserve my distrust or relational distance because they hurt me in some way. What about you? Are there those you need to offer forgiveness and restoration as God has forgiven you? Is there someone who has something against you that you can address with kindness and openness to how they feel they’ve been wronged? (See Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-17)