Luke 15:31-32 “And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
The story of the prodigal son is familiar to most. It tells of a young son who gives in to the lure of the world, requests his inheritance, and sets off to enjoy all the pleasures this world had to offer.
He soon finds that once the money runs out, so do the good times, the friends, and the fun. Left to deal with that reality, the prodigal son sinks into poverty financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
I call it a “Come to Jesus” moment when a person realizes that God was right all along and succumbs to humility, forsakes their pride, and repents. In our story, the son sees the life of one of his father’s servants better than his present life and determines to return and ask forgiveness.
As he comes into view of his home, his father runs to meet him with open arms. He tells his father the speech he has rehearsed repeatedly but is surprised at his father’s response.
Luke 15:22-24 “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
We might hold a grudge like the eldest son, that the brother should have some discipline for his foolish actions. We might be that one who follows the rules, seeks to do right, and wants to please our Heavenly Father. Yet, the prodigal’s father celebrates the return, and it angers the eldest son.
The father comes to the eldest son and reveals his heart to him and to us. Our passage, in the beginning, relates the father’s response. The main focus was restoration, not condemnation.
Far too often, we get caught up in the emotion of a situation or hear of a circumstance and make judgments in our hearts that may not line up with God’s Word. We become ‘armchair critics’ to other people’s lives and make hasty judgments before consulting with the scriptures.
What do we say in our hearts when we see a brother or sister in Christ who falls? Are we quick to write them off and shun them, or do we seek them out to be that one to help the weaker?
We have explicit instruction from God’s Word that we are to do.
Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
We all have our prejudices, preferences, and opinions about certain people. Yet, for us to be as God would, we must set those aside to do as God instructs us. I must take up what God thinks and what God feels about a person instead of clouding my view with what I think or feel.
Matthew 5:44-45 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Our hurts and the offenses we sustain are real. God knows it to be accurate, as well. Yet, we look past it and forgive, love, and accept such a one. At times, we must ask God to take our anger and heal our wounds before we can confront our enemy, let alone forgive them.
For us to love our enemies, we must process our hurt so that we can do it in the spirit God is asking of us. I can do outwardly to convince others, but God knows our hearts. I can go through the motions of loving my enemies, and still harbor anger, jealousy, rage, and resentment.
Some may feel that to love and forgive someone who has wronged us is to condone their behavior or ‘let them off the hook’ for their sins. We must truly relinquish that job to the righteous Judge who says:
Romans 12:19-21 “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
So, if we are active in the life of one who has wronged us, wronged a loved one, or has openly sinned, we must follow biblical principles to attain the final goal that would please our Father in Heaven – restoration, not condemnation. For some, that would be near impossible had God not commanded it.
As mentioned previously, we may know how to convince others outwardly that we have forgiven and forgotten, but it is in the inward man that God judges us. It is in the inner man that we must deal honestly and openly with God.
Keeping our hearts with all diligence includes the mental judgments we make about a person’s dress, attitude, or behavior. For the child of God, our minds need cleansing of all hatred, unforgiveness, revenge, and we cannot allow those thoughts to linger or take hold.
Keep short accounts with God, meaning, we need to confess and repent as soon as we are made aware. Try to obtain a different perspective when the one in our mind goes down a dark path.
Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”