“I am always going into the far country,
And always returning home as a prodigal,
Always saying, Father, forgive me,
And thou art always bringing forth the best robe.”
-From “Continual Repentance” in The Valley of Vision
There is something about sin that is cyclical in nature. Repetitive. Many of us have “pet” sins with which we struggle. Over and over and over again. The Bible exposes this characteristic of sin. Sin has generational impact. The history of Israel shows repeated cycles of unfaithfulness. We know and believe that sin, like history, repeats itself.
What about grace? Do we believe that grace repeats itself? Consider the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. We trumpet this story as a demonstration of the Father’s incredible grace: a son takes his entire inheritance, goes and squanders it, only to return home to a loving Father. Lots of grace.
Imagine, though, if the story didn’t end there. Imagine if that son lit out on his own again, after all of that. Most of us would see this hypothetical version not ending well for the son. He had his second chance, squandered it and surely, he is now surely permanently estranged from his father.
Of course, that’s not how grace works. In the midst of our habitual sin, repeatedly turning our back on the Father, God counters with his own rhythm—a rhythm of grace. He waits for us to turn back to him so he can lavish the riches of his grace on us (Ephesians 1:8). For every sin, God counters with an invitation to receive grace.
Last week I touched on the idea of God, the Light, dancing in the midst of the darkness. If God is dancing, then surely grace is his music. It is the melody that underlies his movement towards us and we are invited, in the midst of our struggles, to leave our discordant lives and join his song.
It is a sad, regrettable and ugly thing that sin continues to rear its head in our lives. We ought to continually strive, with the Spirit’s help, to stamp it out. As sin does crop up again and again, though, we are faced with the stark reality of what we believe about grace. Is it a one, two, three-time thing? Or does it continually overflow, as long as we are willing to accept it?
It’s easy to believe the former. The idea of limited grace is much easier to wrap our minds around and quantify. But the Spirit whispers something different. Over and over, God calls to us, saying, as he said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” It’s sufficient the first time, the second, the millionth, the trillionth, and on and on, until we are overwhelmed by it when we stand in the presence of God himself. Easy to believe? No. But it’s what we’re invited to. The challenge is to accept that invitation.