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Things Were Different

In the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story, the nine-year-old protagonist, Ralphie, has finally had enough: he beats up a bully who has been tormenting him and his friends for years. His mom intervenes to stop it, but it’s too late. She arrives in time to see her son pummeling the boy mercilessly and—worse, from Ralphie’s perspective—to overhear him cursing like a sailor as he does so.

His mother, however, is filled with compassion. She takes him home, washes his face, consoles him, and puts him to bed so he can calm down.

At dinner, when his father asks about his day, Ralphie is shocked when his mother downplays the fight—and doesn’t mention the profanity.

“I slowly began to realize,” Ralphie said, in retrospect, “I was not about to be destroyed. From then on things were different between me and my mother.”

From then on, Ralphie realized that his mother was not going to destroy him. He knew that compassion, mercy, and grace were going to win out over judgment, wrath, and death. He knew that his mother was on his side. And he knew that nothing he could do would separate him from his mother’s love.

Our heavenly Father loves us like that!

Think about today’s scripture. The younger son has squandered his father’s property, threatened his family’s financial security, and told his father, in so many words, that he wished he were dead. And now, out of desperation, the younger son is going home. He can’t predict what his father will do to him. But he knows what he deserves. The best he can hope for is that his father will at least let him live like a slave.

But the unimaginable happens: when he returns home and experiences his father’s love, mercy, and compassion, what must he have thought?

“I slowly began to realize, I was not about to be destroyed. From then on things were different between me and my father.”

And so it is with us. Our God refused to let sin separate us from him for eternity. He refused to let us get what we deserved. He refused to let us suffer hell without intervening to save us. He loved us too much.

And God knew before the foundation of the world the price he would pay to save us—that God himself would come into the world in Christ and die on a cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And now things are different between us and God. There is now no condemnation! If we’ll only receive the free gift that he’s offering us!

Have you received this free gift of God? If so, do you picture God as a compassionate father, eager to forgive you—or as Someone who’s waiting to punish you when you mess up? Which picture better corresponds with the Bible?

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