Recently I was reading the parable of the workers who come late to the field and yet the Lord pays them the same as those who came earlier. (See Matthew 20.) As I read, I saw how similar to the story of the prodigal son (in Luke 15) this story of the laborers in the vineyard is.
And in both cases, what is the message of the Savior? What is the punch line, the conclusion of the stories? In both cases, those who came late, even after frittering away their chance to come earlier and do more, are greeted with irrational kindness.
It has taken me most of my life to wrap my mind around this truth: God is irrationally kind. Especially when measured by the ways or standards of mortal man. Why? Because His ways are higher than our ways. (See Isaiah 55:9.) His kindness is infinite. It can afford to be. Where He dwells and where we came from (and where we will return eventually), there is no limit to time and there is no limit to mercy and love.
It is true that mercy cannot rob justice (Alma 42:25). Mercy cannot stop justice from happening. But repentance can. Repentance, (returning to God despite our past erring ways), whether early or late, can allow mercy to satisfy the demands of justice. (See Alma 34:15-16.)
That is the core message and purpose in the life of Jesus Christ. That is what He lived and died and returned to life to convey to us. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden [by your sorrows and your guilt, your blame and your own shame], and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“Rest” (hope, peace, serenity) is a gift that we receive from Christ. Just as the late workers received full pay, just as the prodigal received the royal treatment, “rest” is not a wage we have earned, it is a gift we are given.
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