I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. LUKE 15:18-20
Picture someone who has wronged you. I mean full-on, blatantly crushed you. If the wound is any bit a fresh one, it’s probably hard to imagine running to that person to forgive him or her. For the prodigal son, he experienced forgiveness in that way precisely.
It was not just love that drove the father to run to his once lost son. He was protecting his son from due punishment. Let us recall the son’s sins against his father: he requested his share of the family’s wealth (on a whim), took it, then blew it all on “reckless living.” Then he decided to come back.
In a first century Jewish community, the village would have performed a kezazah. This was a ceremony against anyone who squandered his inheritance among Gentiles then returned home. They would have broken a large pot in front of the son and yelled something such as, “You are now cut off from your people!”
There was no kezazah. The father ran to his son before anyone could fault him as he entered the village. Forgiveness was clear. Celebration commenced.
Christ shared such parables as the lost son to convey the nature of His Father. God’s forgiveness is indispensable. But run to someone to forgive? Even do them a solid for their otherwise doomed reputation? Suppose they are out to burn you again. Can we not at least wait and make them state their case?
Like the lost son, we are prone to wander. We stray from the good path God has paved for us. Sometimes we even do detestable things that bear zero consideration for loved ones. Still God is full of grace. What He offers to us is incomparable, especially in terms of forgiveness. Not only does He refocus our humility, but He frees us from the grips of our sin.
My mind goes to a person who has wronged me multiple times. It has hurt me and angered me. A kezazah would be the warm-up! It has been a tumultuous path to forgiveness, but I know it is necessary in order for me to live free. Vengeance is suffocating. When you live in The Room of Rogue Justice, it consumes. There is no alternative to a constant defense of your character and an endless wait for their just deserts. The Room of Forgiveness has open doors leading to possibilities. It holds potential for progress.
In the same way the father forgave the son, we have to forgive others. Tough to swallow? Absolutely it is, but it is essential. It’s sort of a green light or admission ticket to live on; to live freely and stop walking on the egg shells of keeping up appearances while we contemplate penalties.
The father had a right to authorize the ultimate slam on his young son. He instead loved, dispensed forgiveness, and redeemed a bad reputation. God too is justified in disowning us. But He delights in loving us, knowing us, and blessing us. Forgiveness makes it possible. We arguably could slam justice down on some of our transgressors. What might come from that?
Here’s what we do know: Psalm 36 reminds us the Lord’s justice is like the great deep. It preserves “man and beast.” We are all included in that!
Justice has the potential to become a questionable thing in a worldly sense. But rejoice! God’s truth in forgiving is unquestionable.
Maybe there is someone you need to forgive. Maybe you are not yet in a position to communicate that forgiveness. That’s OK. Approach forgiveness in the heart first. It will give potential to opening doors rather than surely stifling peace.
- For what specifically might you need to offer up forgiveness to someone?
- How will you prepare your heart to do it?
- What might come out of it?
God, in the midst of the uncertainty of life, there is one thing I can count on and that is Your unending love. Thank you for welcoming me back home. Even though I didn’t deserve grace and mercy, You threw a party when I returned. My redemption provides ultimate security and frees me from the bondage of unforgiveness. Rather than seek justice when others wrong me, may I reflect Your love instead. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
For further study: Luke 15:11-32, Ephesians 4:31-3 and Psalm 36
PC3 writer Adam King wrote today’s devotional.