Jesus’ parable of the Loving Father (better known as the parable of the Prodigal Son) is a foundation of The Way of Mission.
The foundational principle is grace, expressed in family terms.
The Loving Father wants- desperately, deeply wants- the Prodigal Son to come back home. But the father would go on living if the son hadn’t returned. The son comes back destitute with nothing to offer, and the father welcomes him back in generosity with what the Father has to give.
“Give” is, in legal terms, the operative word. The father and son don’t shake on it. They hug on it, in love and acceptance and forgiveness.
We know about the Loving Father and the Prodigal Son. But what does it mean for us? It means-
God doesn’t need anything we have to give.
God wants us, but doesn’t need us to survive.
God chooses us, but doesn’t depend on us for God’s success.
God asks us in, but doesn’t beg out of fear.
God calls us, but doesn’t lose out if and when we don’t answer.
God hungers for us to be in relationship, but God doesn’t starve without it.
We on the other hand, are just the opposite. We both want and need, we both choose and depend, we call out and lose out if we don’t join in. And we will starve.
The practice is: stop yourself when tempted to stick your hand out toward God and say, “Deal?” Receiving grace from God is not a contract. Listen to your lawyer: you can and should make deals with people. But don’t even try to make a deal with God. Just fall into God’s arms in grace.