A certain man had two sons. The youngest said to his father, “Give me my inheritance.” So the father divided his possessions between the sons and watched his younger son take the money, pack his things, and walk down the dusty road without looking back.
The son travelled to a far country and wasted all that his father had given him; years of labor spent in a few short weeks. When his money was gone, a famine swept across the land, and for the first time in his life, the son was hungry. He became so hungry that he hired himself out to feed pigs. He was hungry enough that he wanted the husks that the pigs were eating. Eventually, he came to his senses and decided to go home.
All through the long journey, he rehearsed what he would say and do. He would go to his father, acknowledge his sin, and ask to be made a servant. Surely after such an act of disrespect to his father, he would never again be a member of the family; but if he offered himself as a servant, at least he would have something to eat and a place to stay.
A hundred miles away, the father watched and waited, staring down the long road. Day after day the path was empty. One day, a lone, mirage-like figure appeared in the distance, rippling with the heat. At last, the prodigal was home!
The father met him at the door with a cold stare. The son nervously dropped his eyes and recited what he had planned to say. “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am not worthy to be called your son. Please, make me one of your hired servants. ” He was suprised at his own sudden emotion. Tears stung his eyes and he realized how much he had longed to be reunited with his father.
Stiffly, the father moved to the side and nodded for him to enter the house. Once inside, the father demanded a detailed account of the son’s whereabouts and spending on his journey. He berated him for his foolishness and pride, but insisted that the son be reinstated into the household on a trial basis. The son would be given responsibilities and tasks to fulfill, and based on his performance, the father might begin to place some trust in his youngest son, and consider restoring him to his former status.
Aren’t you glad forgiveness doesn’t work that way? The true end to this story is one of the most striking, beautiful examples of true forgiveness. The Bible says that the father saw the son when he was still a long way off and had compassion on him. Instead of waiting to serve out the punishment he was entitled to give, the father ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
When we come to God with repentance, not only do we not receive the punishment we deserve, we are granted full, complete, total restoration of our relationship with him. Although there may be consequences to our sin, we do not have to fear further reprimand from our father. He has met us with outstretched arms, rejoicing, saying, “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
The Prodigal, Ron DiCianni