So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. (NLT)
If we want a pretty clear picture of the sort of God Christians worship, this short passage will do very nicely. We can conjure up an image of God that has him distant and almost abstract. An article of belief rather than a person. We can imagine him frowning on his human creation with pursed lips and a facial expression that suggests he has too much vinegar in his diet.
Thankfully, he is not like that. Yes indeed he is the holy judge of the world who hates sin and will deal with it. But he is a compassionate and merciful father who welcomes home his lost and wandering children. His welcome is not coldly formal. It is warm and passionate. This father in the story would have clung to his long robes as he ran, not at all a picture of etiquette and protocol. Such was the nature of his love.
Any of us who have wandered into the far country in search of something we could only ever find in the Father’s embrace, can be reassured that when we come to our senses we will be welcomed home. No handshakes or elbow bumps but an impassioned embrace.
Our coming to our senses, what we might call repentance, is not something that earns God’s favour and mercy. It is simply the way in which we place ourselves in a situation to receive it. Our God stands ready to welcome us home. Will we come home?
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