If there were a limit to God’s grace, no one would be saved. Let’s face it, when the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” it has us all bang to rights. Not one person on this planet could stand up and honestly say that they deserve the unparalleled, indescribable, unlimited love of God and the sheer glory of what He has promised us.
But what if you followed God for a while and walked away? What if you were raised in a Christian home, went to church, prayed the prayer and still find yourself on the wrong side of the kinds of choices that seemed so easy in Sunday school. What if you have said “yes” to the things and people you should have said “no” to and have walked away from the people and things you should have held close? Surely, at some point, it’s all over.
For those who have walked the Christian walk and then taken a sharp turn away, fear follows at every step. Teachings on judgment day and responsibility morph into heckles of worthlessness and shame. When Jesus tells His disciples to forgive each other 77 times (or 70 times 7), you start counting and his ten times that in a few minutes. Surely, the grace of God can’t be endless, can it?
Ask the young man Jesus talked about in Luke 15: 11-32. Here was a guy who had it all: great family, great future, and great dad. But what did he do? Rather than enjoy the life of luxury he had, he grabs at his first opportunity to leave and takes off with half his dad’s estate. As far as he was concerned, his dad was dead to him. It was time to live life by his rules.
With all the money he was given, he clocks up mess ups at an impressive rate. The New Century Version puts it plainly “He wasted all his money in foolish living” (Luke 15: 13b). He did everything his father had told him not to do. If he were setting out today, perhaps he would have done drugs, slept around, got drunk, got arrested, bought cars, crashed cars and partied for days at a time.
Then the money runs out. One day, his lifestyle catches up with him. While the land around has plenty and while the coins still clink in his pockets, he can manage. Take away his cash, dump him in a failing economy and he ends up on the muck pile – hiring himself out for whatever job he can get. To be sent to care for pigs and not even paid would have been the final insult. For good Jewish boys, pigs were the kind of animal you avoided at all costs. Here is this son of a well-off, respected Jew, doing the lowest kind of work imaginable and not even getting paid for it.
Recognise him? There are times when life seems to stop for a moment; when we stop and realise that the place where we are is not the place we should be. Like this guy, maybe you have found yourself staring at yourself and wondering how you got into such a mess. Maybe it’s not even that serious but you have just realised that this is not the life you thought you would be living. Maybe there are dreams you have left abandoned and you feel like you are too old or too broken or too hurt to ever go after them again.
In verses 17-20, the young guy hatches a plan. Anything has to be better than being a pig-slave. Reckoning that his dad will still be ticked off at him, he comes up with this idea to return as a servant. Sure, his dad might no longer want a foul-smelling waster for a son but he could always do with more help, right?
How often do people try similar trades with God? God, you don’t need to do much, just let me sneak into church at the back. Just let me hang around with Christians. I don’t want much.
To everyone who thinks like that, God responds exactly the same way as the father did to the prodigal son. Instead of anger, there is love. Instead of the chance of sneaking in by the side door, there is a hero’s welcome and a huge party. God doesn’t just forgive, He heals. He doesn’t just wipe away sins, He rejoices over us. He doesn’t just accept us, He welcomes us in with open arms, new robes and a feast.
The question is not, “will God take me back?” but “when will I come home?” God is standing at the door with open arms. No matter what you have done, it’s time to come home.