He said, â€œA certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, â€˜Father, give me my share of your property.â€™ He divided his livelihood between them…
But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. LukeÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 15:11-12, 20 (WEB)
I remember the first time I read this story in 1980-something. My first Bible was The Living Bible. (Remember that green edition?) I have always been grateful that I was given that version. On a first read I would not have made it through the KJV or the RSV. TLB reads like a novel. As I read about this young son, I thought, in speaking to the father, â€œAre you nuts?!!â€ Yes, sometimes God will give me what I ask â€“ even when it is not the best for me.
The father gave the young son what he wanted. He could have said â€œnoâ€ but would the son have stopped asking? He gave no indication that this was negotiable in his â€œI-want-it-nowâ€ mind. In giving the son what he wanted, the father seems to be losing the son. He allows the son to try it his way. Has God ever done that in your life? He has in mine. It is a good lesson that I do not want to learn again! God gave me what I wanted and it was disastrous. It has taken a few years to dig out of the hole! My prayers now are: â€œNot my will but Yours, Father.â€
The father did not just give the son his inheritance then dust off his hands and slam the home gate shut, and write off the boy! The father never, never stopped believing that the son would come home. That is the way our Heavenly Father watches for me. For most of my life, over 40 years, the Father watched and watched for me. He hoped that in all the difficult days of my life that I would turn to Him and allow Him to show me the best path for my life. And when I did He didnâ€™t say, â€œWhat took you so long?â€ or â€œWhy didnâ€™t you come to Me sooner?â€ or â€œBecause you waited so long, I donâ€™t have time for you!â€. The Father did not keep me waiting at the gate like a stranger or unwelcome guest. He ran to me. The Father wrapped me in His arms and kissed me. Even though I was stinky and still dirty in my sin, He kissed me with the gift of forgiveness before I could get the prepared speech past my lips.
Forgiveness is a hard concept of Jesusâ€™ discipleship. In His parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20), Jesus tells me that whether the â€˜workerâ€™ comes into the vineyard early or at the last minute, his wage will be the same. Fair? That is not the question. The owner of the the vineyard sets the payment, not the workers. Godâ€™s forgiveness extends to my mother who walked with Him all of her life and it includes the serial killer on death row who accepts his need for the Savior minutes before his execution.
â€œâ€˜Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!â€™ I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.â€ Â Â Â Luke 15:6-7 (WEB)