“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. (NLT)
Those of us who have wandered off to the far country may wonder what might happen if we decide to go back home. After all, we are returning to a holy and just God whom we have let down so very badly.
We may expect a stern lecture, a wagging of fingers reminding us what fools we have been. We may expect a grudging sort of welcome accompanied by a period of probation where we have to prove ourselves worthy of family membership once again. And for some, they may even expect a slammed door in the face. There can be no homecoming because there is no home any more.
When Jesus tells the story of one such individual’s homecoming, it all turns out differently. When the returning prodigal comes home with his sincere but despondent confession of his failings, the father seems to take no notice. The fact he is back home is all that matters. Remorse and guilt are overwhelmed by a desire to celebrate.
Which is what it is like for any of us who turn back to God for the first or thousandth time. No reminding us of how foolish we have been. Stern moral lectures are unnecessary. We know we have been foolish, which is why we have come back. Our trudging back home is marked by celebration from a Father who welcomes us with open arms. He throws a party for us.