"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 3, 2010
This week I am continuing on the subject of forgiveness. Last week I wrote about forgiving unintentional acts that are said or done. But what about forgiving someone when they go out and intentionally do something wrong? When they have caused us pain, are we still required to forgive? Maybe even more so. But when there is hurt involved, it makes it difficult to forgive and not hold a grudge. When someone has broken our heart and sorely disappointed us, forgiveness is necessary not only for the one who betrayed us, but for our own peace of mind.
I recently heard an Ernest Hemingway short story, in which a father and son had been estranged for a long time over some perhaps long forgotten argument or issue. The father decided he wanted to find his son and be reconciled. The son had run away to Madrid and the father had no idea how to find him in such a large city. Now remorseful, the father took out this ad in the El Liberal newspaper: "PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA." Paco is a common name in Spain, and when the father went to the square he found eight hundred young men named Paco waiting for their fathers.
There is a need inside of us to know that when we mess up and disappoint those who love us the most, that they won't turn their back on us and ban us forever from their lives. So many individuals have headed down the wrong path and made choices that have caused them pain, and pain to those who love them most. For a period of time, they may have even thought they wanted to be independent of their family and friends. But when they find themselves in dire conditions, they realize what they threw away. Yet that's when it's the hardest to free themselves of the guilt and condemnation, and humble themselves enough to go home and ask for forgiveness.
The above story of Paco is a picture of a son's desire to be reunited with his father. Here were 800 young men who had left home and knew that they had disappointed their fathers, yet when they read the words in the paper, their heart yearned for forgiveness and reconciliation. I'm sure that each of them hoped that when they walked to the square that they would see their father waiting there with open arms.
Regardless of how young or old a son or daughter may be, there is within them a need to know that they have their parents approval and forgiveness. They may say that they don't care or that it's not important, but it really is. Not only do the parents desire to hear their wayward children repent and say that they are sorry; but the child needs to hear the words, "I forgive you, and welcome you back into our family."
For some reason, those are the toughest words to say at times. It's easy to justify by thinking, "They know how I feel; there's no need for me to make a big deal about it and say it." But there is power in words, and when spoken, words of forgiveness can bring about healing and reconciliation. It also can be very freeing for both the parent and child to know, without any doubt, that there are no hidden hurt or disappointment; but all has truly been forgiven.
In Luke 15 we read the parable of the prodigal son. In verse 11 it begins that there was a father who had two sons. The younger apparently became restless and asked his father for his portion of his inheritance. Perhaps he felt that he'd be too old to enjoy it by the time his father died. He may have thought that he could take the money, go have himself a little fun, and then invest the rest of it and get rich. Whatever his reasoning, he desired to leave his father's house and go out on his own.
His father chose to go ahead and divide the younger sons portion and give it to him. He may have sensed the restlessness in his son, and knew that he would leave regardless if he had his share of the inheritance or not. He may have felt that at least this way, his son would be provided for.
The younger son gathered all of his possessions together and journeyed to a far country. I'm sure when he set out, he felt like he was headed for adventure and was going to do something spectacular that he could write home about.
But like a lot of young men, he was full of himself and ended up wasting all that his father had given him. He was careless and was living for the moment, not planning ahead for the future.
After he had spent all that he had, a famine hit the land, and he began to feel the effects of his careless living. For the first time in his life, the son found himself in need. He went out and found a job feeding pigs. He went from being the son of a wealthy man to living with the pigs -- literally.
Finally, he came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's hired servants have enough bread to eat, with some to spare; yet I perish with hunger! I will go to my father and say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.'"
The son had it all planned out ahead of time what he would say when he once again saw his father. He had reached a point of desperation and was returning to his father's house, hoping to at least be hired on as a servant. Even though he had given up the rights of a son, he knew that at least he would have a place to sleep and food to eat.
I'm sure that he had gone through every possible scenario in his mind of how his father would react when they were once again face to face. When he rounded that last corner before his father's house came into view, he was more than likely nervous and was starting to perspire and his knees shake. He had no idea if his father would deny him as his son. I'm sure he felt that he deserved words or anger and condemnation. He may have even wondered if he'd be mocked and laughed at by his father's household for coming home smelling like pig, having lost all his inheritance.
But to the son's surprise, his father saw him coming down the road when he was still a long ways off. As he went about his daily duties, the father had probably kept his eyes on the road, hoping for his sons return. The father was filled with compassion, and ran to meet his son. He threw his arms around his boy and kissed him.
The son started his rehearsed speech, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son."
But the father interrupted him and spoke to his servants, "Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here 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 and have a big party.
The father didn't make his son beg for forgiveness. He didn't tell him that he had to prove that he had really changed, then they'd talk about him moving back home. He didn't send his servants out to meet his son when he came walking down the road. He didn't tell them to make him bathe and put on clean clothes, then perhaps he'd talk to his son. But the father had already forgiven his son before he ever saw him walking down that road. The second the father's eyes fell upon his son, he was immediately filled with compassion. He stopped what he was doing and ran as fast as he could to greet his boy. He didn't look at the dirt, or flinch at the stench of pig odor that radiated from his son. None of those things mattered. All he knew was that his son, who he thought possibly had rejected him forever, had returned home. He threw his arms around him and greeted him with a kiss.
Not only did the father welcome back this wayward child, but he welcomed him back as a son. He commanded his servants to bring out the best robe to put on his son, to put a ring upon his hand and sandals on his feet. Then he told them to prepare a feast, because they were going to have a celebration.
This is such an amazing picture of forgiveness. What Jesus was painting a picture of through this parable, was how He, as our Heavenly Father, was waiting to welcome us as His children and give us forgiveness for our sins.
Men and women have decided to leave their faith and seek a "better" life. Individuals have tried to do things without God in their live, and things may seem fun for a while and God seems unnecessary. But sooner or later, they are brought to a point where their lives become a mess and they can either try to handle things on their own, while living with the "pigs"; or they can return home to their Father.
God doesn't ask that we clean ourselves up before approaching Him. He doesn't demand that we prove ourselves worthy of His forgiveness. He doesn't make us beg for forgiveness and mercy. But as soon as He sees us coming towards Him, He immediately runs to meet us. God throws His arms around us, greets us with a kiss, and accepts us into His house. I believe that He makes a heavenly announcement that, "My child has come back home! Let's have a party and celebrate!!"
Just like the prodigal son, there is absolutely nothing that we can do to deserve or earn our Heavenly Father's love and forgiveness. He just loves us so much that He freely gives it to us. We can never be good enough, or work hard enough, or prove ourselves worthy of it. All we have to do is run to God and He is there with outstretched arms, waiting for us to come home.
A couple of hymns I heard many times while growing up speak of our Heavenly Father waiting for wayward children to come back home to Him. One speaks from the point of view of the one who has strayed from God and sinned. It tells of their longing to come back home to the Father.
"I've wandered far away from God. Now I'm coming home. The paths of sin too long I've trod. Lord, I'm coming home. I've tired of sin and straying, Lord. Now I'm coming home. I'll trust Thy love, believe Thy word. Lord, I'm coming home. Coming home, coming home, nevermore to roam. Open wide Thine arms of love; Lord, I'm coming home."
The other speaks of the Father calling out to those who have wandered away from home. It begins, "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me." The chorus says, "Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, 'O sinner, come home.'" The last verse says, "Oh! For the wonderful love He has promised, promised for you and for me. Tho' we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me."
Jesus is waiting to give us absolution. He's waiting, with arms wide open, to welcome us back home. When we ask for forgiveness, Jesus will not only forgive, but forget. He will never bring our sin up again, and will absolve us of all guilt and shame.
That's the most ultimate forgiveness that any of us can ever know! If you are struggling and have wandered from God, it's not too late to go home. Why live in sin (or with the pigs), when you can live as the child of a King?!? Accept the forgiveness and love of God today, and it will be a decision that you'll never regret. There's nothing like knowing that we are safe at home with our Father.
I've heard 'stress' defined as the difference between what we expect or want and what we actually get. I don't think it's at all surprising that the prodigal son rehearsed his conversation with his father before he got there. I think almost anyone would have. It's even less surprising that it went so differently. In my own experience, no conversation goes like I rehearse. And that includes the few classes I took in drama, and all the scripted plays and skits I was in.
Of course, when this conversation went so dramatically differently, the son was undoubtedly happy. But how often do we get all worked up expecting one conversation, then it doesn't go as well as we hope? Once in awhile, I start into a conversation expecting it to go one way, but it heads off a different direction (whether the other person takes it the other way, or I wander off topic).
It might be a minor annoyance. But it's one of many annoyances that are easy to let get out of hand. And the other person rarely has a clue anything feels wrong. After being married almost 5 years, I'm finally learning well that I should never expect my expectations to go as planned. And when they don't go as planned (but as expected), it isn't that I should forgive anyone, but I should remember that there is nothing to be forgiven.
I wonder how many times people wait for days or even years for someone's forgiveness when there was nothing to be forgiven.
Cheesy Spinach and Bacon Dip
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach -- thawed & drained
1 (16 oz.) Velveeta, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. Pkg.) Cream Cheese -- cubed
1 can Rotel
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
Combine ingredients in microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until Velveeta is completes melted and mixture is well blended; stirring after 3 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or cut-up vegetables.
Parents tend to want their kids to show off when they learn new things; and kids tend to not perform well on demand.
Three mornings a week I babysit the baby boy of my niece and her husband. He's 10 months old now and getting to be a lot of fun. A while back I began snapping my fingers occasionally when I was holding him, and he really liked the noise it made. One day I saw him watching my hands really close as I was snapping, like he was trying to figure out how I was doing it. A little later, I looked and he was moving his fingers like he was trying to snap. I told his mom when she got home and that afternoon she called because he was doing it again. A few days later she told me that he'd been moving his fingers like he was snapping, but of course, they weren't making any noise; so he was clicking his tongue to make the noise as he did it. Isn't he so smart?!? We've learned though that he's not going to do anything new on demand, unless he feels like doing it!
A while back some of my family got together for a baby shower for my nephew's wife. His brother and family were in attendance. They have a 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter. The dad was trying to get his 4 year old to say the scripture about the birth of Jesus that he had learned for his Christmas preschool program. He didn't much want to, so my sister told him that she'd give him a dollar if he would. Wow, a whole dollar! He stood up and did an amazing job of quoting those scriptures. When he was finished, he looked at my sister like, "Okay, I said it, so where's my dollar?" He was thrilled when he got the money and thought he was rich!
Experience is a tough teacher; it gives you the tests first and the lessons later.
It's getting closer and closer to springtime! We're getting excited for warmer weather and seeing things begin to turn green again and flowers to start to bloom. Not too anxious to begin mowing the yard again, but that comes with season.
We hope you all are being blessed by our weekly newsletter and find encouragement from the devotionals we write.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon