Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father. “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’ “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’ “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’” Luke 15:11-32
Once upon a time, I was a prodigal daughter. I was lost. I wasn't living for God or even thinking of Him. I truly didn't really even know Him. I was living for myself. I was wasting the life that I was given on frivolous, temporal things. When I did finally run into God, I didn't really think I could be forgiven or accepted, but I was so wrong!
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness [who did not seek salvation and a right relationship with God, nevertheless] obtained righteousness, that is, the righteousness which is produced by faith; whereas Israel, [though always] pursuing the law of righteousness, did not succeed in fulfilling the law. And why not? Because it was not by faith [that they pursued it], but as though it were by works [relying on the merit of their works instead of their faith]. They stumbled over the stumbling Stone [Jesus Christ]. As it is written and forever remains written, “Behold I am laying in Zion a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense; And he who believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:30-33
Through the gift of Jesus, I was and am forgiven and have been brought into that embrace we see in the parable! He was running to me, ready to wrap me in His arms and hold me to His heart. And I am still wrapped up in Him. I still have tears that stream down my face when I think of how He loved me that much, forgave me that completely. Mercy. Love. And those tears that fall are part of my testimony. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I once was blind but now I see. I see His heart for me.
Sometimes I consider the other son in the story - the one that stayed and went about his work. The one that turned bitter that the prodigal would be accepted after such shenanigans and worthy of a celebration upon his return. I’m not sure I completely understand. Perhaps he was bent towards self-righteousness - ‘if I just do my job and don’t get into trouble I will earn my way...’ Perhaps he just felt entitled to more because he stayed and served. Maybe He was just being judgmental and unforgiving. Maybe all of the above. But salvation is a free gift. We don’t work for it. We don’t create it ourselves. God came up with it, and He sees everything through.
All I can say is I don’t want to become bitter. I pray I don’t stand in judgement of whether someone should or shouldn’t be forgiven. Should or shouldn’t be accepted. Deserves salvation or not. I want my heart to align so closely with the Father’s, that I simply trust His judgement and His will. I want to rejoice in the kindness and mercy of our God.
I've been a beneficiary of that mercy and kindness when I haven't remotely deserved it. I have received His forgiveness. So who am I to ever withhold forgiveness? Who am I to say whether another person is worthy or not. I wasn't worthy. And yet He extended to me His robe and called for a feast, embracing me as His child. That is a good, good Father.
Father, you are so kind and good. Your acts of mercy display the great depth and height and width of Your unconditional love. Help us to forgive and show mercy just as You have done for us. Fill us with Your Spirit so that we grow together as a family and embrace one another. Thank You for the Gift of our precious Savior. Thank You for running to meet us and for offering Your whole heart to us.
Author: Kerri Barfield