In the story of the prodigal son, we see how the father responds in love to the wayward child. While everything the sorrowful boy has prepared to say was true, it was not enough to separate him from a father who would take him back fully. In fact, the father would not even hear the boy’s speech about unworthiness. The love is so great and merciful, that he forgives completely and receives entirely.
Yes, the boy had blown his portion of the inheritance, but he would still be the son. There would be a complete restoration of relationship and a new heart to live in the father’s house.
The neighbours and a few family members would be shocked at the undignified manner in which a father embraced a failure and declared him to be wonderful. The father leapt to his feet at first sight and ran to the returning son.
Jesus would go even further than His Father. He would go all the way to the table of sinners to love them. While others would say Jesus had gone to the pigpen, we know he came to the lowest people in the lowest places to free us from our well-deserved condemnation.
Like an old vinyl LP, there are two sides to listen to. Side One is the record of wrongdoing. It is in the voice of our repentance and unworthiness. This side contains songs of shame and remorse.
On the other side of the album, there are the songs of God’s love and acceptance. We hear of his illogical mercy that would choose to love a returned prodigal over the obvious judgment of his past actions.
Unfortunately, some people never flip the record over. They only listen to their own sad songs of unworthiness and miss the joy of Side Two.
Richard Foster said this: “One further note on the preparation for confession; there must be a definite termination point in the self-examination process. Otherwise, we can easily fall into a permanent habit of self-condemnation. Confession begins in sorrow, but it ends in joy. There is celebration in the forgiveness of sins because it results in a genuinely changed life.” [i]
The changed life does not come from the prodigal’s behaviour. The change comes from the Father who gives an undeserved reward for simply being alive, home and humble. The Father’s love changes the child much more than the record of wrongdoing.
Are you willing to let God love you and clothe you in complete acceptance?