or/and: Part 2 of 2

Subtitle: A Lenten Reflection on the Love of God Who is Love

The father of unconditional love. The parabolic image of God.

To behold afresh the testimony of God’s boundless love, I bid that we reread this parable, particularly Luke 15.20b, 22-24 (the text, below, in italics), through the lens of my parenthetical explanatory annotations with our focus on that little, yet mighty conjunction and:

The father saw his son and was filled with compassion (love that shares the suffering of another). He ran and put his arms around him (welcoming him, refusing to punish him or to demand recompense from him) and kissed him (treating him as an equal) … The father said to his servants, “Quickly, bring out a robe, the best one (the father’s robe) and put it on him and put a ring on his finger (the symbol of authority) and sandals on his feet (the sign of sonship). And get the fatted calf (reserved for the greatest festivals) and kill it, and let us eat (“us” meaning everyone throughout the land; thus, an all-embracing, all-inclusive party) and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again (resurrected); he was lost and is found!” (redeemed). And they began to celebrate.

I recall the words of the hymn:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;

there’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.[1]

This is God. This is Love, which is another way of saying the same thing! The Love of God Who is Love is the “something old” to which I referred in Part 1, the forever-point of the parable that I suggested “we might need to see anew.”

Why?

For much in the world of our human experience – our economies, our politics, and our societal rules governing our relationships – is rooted in distinction and discrimination based on culture and class, clan and creed, age and gender, race and religion. All this defies and denies the all-embracing, all-inclusive love of God. And we, steeped in this environment, breathing the daily ether of division, inevitably find it hard, perhaps impossible to believe that God loves without condition.

The Love of God Who is Love loves, always and in all ways! The only thing that the Love of God Who is Love cannot do is not love!

Still, with our God-given freewill, we can choose how to respond. As the elder son, refusing to believe kindly favor is free (for what in the world is?). Or as the younger son, returning, rejoicing in being loved and, therefore, being loving.

I choose to believe as the younger son. I choose to be as the younger son. Thus, the words of the hymn become my personal profession:

For the love of God is broader than the measure of my mind;

and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

If my love were but more faithful, I should take Him at His Word;

and my life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.[2]

© 2021 PRA

Illustration: Return of the Prodigal Son (detail, father and younger son) (c. 1669), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)


[1] From verse 1 of the hymn, There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Frederick William Faber (1814-1863).

[2] Ibid, verse 3

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