God can pull you out.
Imagine you’re much older. You’re showing a visitor a photo album: your life, laid out in a few choice snaps.
As the pages turn, you remember the delights of your wedding; how you posed for hours for some sadistic photographer. The joy of finding out you were going to be a parent; the hours you spent poring over books of names.
How could you ever forget holding your child in your arms for the first time?
You remember holding him as he took his first steps, picking him up as he fell and hurt his knee. The stupid stories you used to make up on the spot as he fell asleep. Working more shifts to feed that extra mouth, and not resenting it one bit. Times in the park watching him play football.
You also remember him beginning to ignore you. Trying to talk to him, and getting nowhere. Worst of all, you remember the evening he told you he was moving out. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t said he didn’t want anything to do with you ever again and that, as far as he was concerned, you were dead. You remember the tears and the hurt as you wrote out the cheque for his inheritance. You knew you would never forget the sound of that door slamming behind him.
How did you feel, imagining that situation? It’s hard not to feel hurt, anger and outrage at the son, after all his parents had done for him.
Jesus told a very similar story, recorded in the book of Luke (NT), chapter 15. The shock in Jesus’ story is that God is the father, and we are all like the son. The Bible says that God made us, to enjoy a relationship with him, but that we have become self-centred, and ignore him.
The son in the Bible story had a whale of a time for a while, but soon fell on hard times. When he reached rock-bottom, not even earning enough to feed himself, he thought he’d go back to his father, and ask if he could be a servant there. On the way home, his Dad spotted him…
Let’s pause there for a moment, remembering how you felt a moment ago. How would you respond at this point?
…Well, the father ran to his son; ran, and embraced him. Not only did he take him back into his house, but he showered him with good things and completely forgave him. It was like he’d never left.
Jesus was illustrating one of God’s key characteristics: forgiveness. We’ve all ignored God; we’re all self-centred (if you don’t believe me, who do you look for first when you see a group photo with you in it?)—and yet if we ask God, he will forgive us and accept us into a relationship with himself.
The Lord’s Prayer says we should also forgive one another, as we are forgiven. If God, who is perfect, can forgive us, who are we to be above forgiving others?
Pray: God, it’s hard for me to get to grips with the idea of my own sin, let alone that fact that it could be completely forgiven. Please help me to get my head round this. Challenge me to see the areas in my life where I need to say sorry, and let me believe that I am forgiven; challenge me to say sorry to others whom I have hurt, and to forgive those who have hurt me. Amen.
Quote: “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness... I have no one to forgive me.” (Marghanita Laski, humanist)
Look up the story of the prodigal son for yourself
Look up what Paul in Ephesians says about forgiving one another
Read our article about the meaning of the cross
Watch a video clip of a Christian father speaking after his daughter was killed in the Columbine school massacre
Watch a video clip of Mother Teresa talking about forgiveness
Watch a music video from Kenya on forgiveness, from Mission Driven
Read the poem by Edgar Thomas: Forgiveness
Read the book Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve by Lewis Smedes
Read the book The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don't Know How by Lewis Smedes
Read the book What Is the Point of Being a Christian by Timothy Radcliffe
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