Yesterday I wrote about the prodigal son and his older brother. In the process, something interesting came up. The older brother, I suggested, represented the Christian legalist. The younger brother represented the believer who uses his newfound freedom to cultivate sin and rebellion. I said that neither was under grace.
Now, of course, technically that statement was wrong. Neither of them lived under grace, at least in the sense of enjoying the benefits of grace. Both still appeared to be in bondage, one to the law and the other to his passions. They didn’t know life under grace.
But all believers are under grace. The fact of your position in Christ decides whether you are under law or under grace. The unbeliever, still in his sins and on his way to hell, is under law. Law brings conviction and moves the unbeliever’s heart to cry out for mercy to the Lord of love. But those who have come to Jesus are under grace—whether they know it or not.
The profligate (isn’t that a great word?) wasted far more than his money. He wasted his father’s love. He wasted his freedom. He wasted his joy. He wasted the grace given to him.
So did the legalist. He wasted the abundance that was his. He also wasted his father’s love and the freedom he had. He allowed his joy to turn to resentment and anger. He also wasted the grace given to him.
The difference between these brothers is still active among believers today. The legalists look at the prodigals and speak against their freedom. The prodigals look at the legalists and speak against their bondage. But both ignore their Father!
The truth is that anyone who is in Christ is under grace. That includes both the legalist and the prodigal. And—get this—God loves them both enough to stand ready to welcome them into joy whenever they are ready to look to Him again.
The legalist might try to keep himself under law, perhaps because he is afraid or has trouble accepting the love the Father gives, but he is not actually under law. He is, because of Jesus, under grace. And he simply needs to understand that the self-imposed rules and standards add nothing to the work Jesus has done for him.
And the prodigals do nothing to change the truth of grace by their behavior. They are still loved and forgiven and accepted. Their behavior may hurt them and others, but it does not discredit the love of the Father. They need to understand that the freedom of grace is not freedom for sin, but freedom from sin.
The legalist might think that sin will separate him from his Lord, but he is wrong. The prodigal might think that there is no consequence to sin, but he is wrong. And both miss the point of grace.
Grace is a simple and regular walk with the Lord of love. No worrys. Rest and fulfillment and joy. We rest because the work is done. We are fulfilled because our Lord moves us to participate in His work without fear of failure or anxiety over results. We live in joy because we are with the One who loves us, never to be parted from Him.
The Father’s love is the source of all grace. When our eyes are on Him, everything else is good.