Thinking about the parable of the prodigal son… You can read about it in Luke 15:11-31. The son went to his father and asked for his inheritance so he could go have some fun and live his life the way he wanted. The father did as the son asked, even though I am sure the father knew it was not the best thing for his son, but he had to let him find that out for himself. After the son burned through the money with crazy living, he realized what he had given up to enjoy himself for a season. It is then you can see the brokenness in the son… his heart had to be broken to seek repentance. A change of life-direction shown by his hunger for restoration… he could see his life of sin was leading no where; he longed to be home with his father. He humbled himself to confess that what he had done violated his love for God and for others. He cried out for mercy… he knew he deserved nothing, but he was willing to live as a slave just to be close to his father again.
Now the forgiveness part of the story… I believe that the father was ready to forgive his son before he even walked out the door. The father had hopes and dreams for his child and he knew being angry and disgusted with his son would not help the situation at all. The father could have tried to coax his son or cater to his son just to keep him close, but he knew he had to allow his son the freewill to learn life lessons on his own. That doesn’t mean that what his son was doing was okay with him, but that no matter he loved him and was waiting to welcome him home when the time came. The father in this story represents the unexpected forgiving heart of God… he hopefully anticipated that his son would repent and be restored to his family. He courageously humbled himself to receive his son with loving arms… the world may have seen it as weakness when it was actually the greatest act of love. He gave mercy to his son because of his son’s repentant heart… he restored his sonship instead of making him grovel as a slave. And finally, he celebrated that his son had changed his direction from death and destruction to life and reconciliation.
And the unforgiving heart… the older son was jealous that his brother was received back home with open arms after what he had done. What does an unforgiving heart get you? A hard heart… he felt justified in feeling outrage towards his brother and probably even his father… he would rather be angry by himself than choose to forgive and celebrate with his family. A vengeful heart… his only focus was to see his little brother pay for all he had done to hurt the family… rather than show his brother love and mercy and thankfulness that his brother made it back home alive. A prideful heart… he refused to have a relationship with his father and brother… he wanted to sit in his rightness rather than live in righteousness.
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings.” Mark 11:25-26
I admit, I can be stubborn and rebellious… my pride and my flesh refuse to forgive, but then I am reminded that I also have received forgiveness for so much. I came to God in repentance and drank deeply of His water of grace and mercy from the well of God’s forgiveness. (Luke 7:47) I have to remember forgiveness is about my heart condition not the heart of the one I am forgiving… it is for me not for them.
Our unwillingness to forgive those who have harmed us reflects our failure to understand God’s love for us. This ability to love and forgive can come only by first being forgiven by God. Have you taken that first step?
Rejoicing in Truth!