How many have suffered and still suffer because their hearts were not firm in their good inclinations, because they imprudently looked with impure eyes, because they heard with ears unaccustomed to discern between good and evil, because they tasted greedily! The senses of the sin-loving, greedy flesh, unrestrained by reason and by God’s commandments, have drawn them into various worldly passions, have darkened their minds and hearts, deprived them of peace of heart, and taken away their free-will, making them the slaves of these senses. Thus you see how necessary it is to look, listen, taste, smell, and feel prudently; or, rather, how necessary it is to guard your heart so that through your outward senses, as through a window, no sin may steal in, and that the author himself of sin – the Devil – may not darken and wound that heavenly fledgling, our soul, with his poisonous and deathly arrows.
You’re worried about permissiveness – about the way he preaching of grace seems to say it’s okay to do all kinds of terrible things as long as you just walk in afterward and take the free gift of God’s forgiveness… While you and I may be worried about seeming to give permission, Jesus apparently wasn’t. He wasn’t afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. He’s angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue – that music, dancing, and a fatted calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: “Cut that out! We’re not playing good boys and bad boys any more. Your brother was dead and he’s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.”
Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at home; but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need: prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer…So begins a communion, a talking with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer, yea, of existence itself in its infinite phases. We must ask that we may receive; but that we should receive what we ask in respect of our lower needs, is not God’s end in making us pray, for He could give us everything without that: to bring His child to His knee, God withholds that man may ask.
Prodigal sons, forgiven and reconciled with their heavenly Father, could they do other than forgive one another? A fellowship of prodigal sons came into being — the church of Christ. Love begets love. A new power…was let loose upon our suffering world, the power to love those who have not deserved love, the unworthy, the unlovely and unlovable, a man’s enemies, and even his torturers. Christians, in imitation of the Saviour, became, as it were, Christs to one another and to the world.