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. [Luke 15:20 (NLT)]
I was re-writing and updating my prayer list when I came to the names of several prodigals. Some of their names have been on that list for nearly two decades; during that time, they’ve been in and out trouble, jail, and rehab. Having wasted most of their lives, each one of them one would qualify as the poster child for lost causes. I thought of not adding their names to my new list. “After all, what’s the point?” I wondered.
I then thought of the parable of the prodigal son—a young man with plenty of opportunities who squandered his money and broke his father’s heart. When life got really tough and the pigs were living better than he, the boy finally repented and returned home to the welcoming and forgiving arms of his father. Like the prodigal son, when they were in financial or legal difficulties, the prodigals on my prayer list often returned home for a warm bed, financial and legal assistance, and even another trip to rehab. Unlike the prodigal son, however, they never managed to truly repent and always returned to their old friends and way of life.
What if there was another chapter to Jesus’s story of the prodigal son? What if, after cleaning up, getting some good meals in his belly, and obtaining a few coins in his pocket, the boy had returned to his life as a wastrel? How would his father have reacted? What would his father have done if his son, after wasting everything again, had returned home a second time? Would his father have rejoiced and thrown his arms around the boy? What if it happened again and again? Would his father eventually have stopped looking for his lost son? In anger, would he eventually have barred the gates and turned his back on his child?
I think not. Jesus’s parable was about forgiveness and hope, God’s grace and mercy, and His lavish love for his children. I think the father would have continued to run to his child and welcome him back every time he returned. Although God won’t enable His prodigals in their sinful ways, I believe He will receive them every time they come home, forgive them when they repent, and shed tears if they relapse and return to their old ways.
Our Heavenly Father will continue to forgive and welcome them (and us) back again and again until they (and we) finally get it right. With God there are no lost causes, only lost children. If God hasn’t given up hope, neither will I. For all of His lost sheep, I will continue to pray that they eventually find their way home and into the arms of their loving Father.
I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home;
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home.
I’ve wasted many precious years, Now I’m coming home;
I now repent with bitter tears, Lord, I’m coming home.
I’m tired of sin and straying, Lord, Now I’m coming home;
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy Word, Lord, I’m coming home.
Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam,
Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.
[“Lord, I’m Coming Home” by William J Kirkpatrick]