We love a good redemptive story from the Bible. It’s full of them. You can’t turn a page without reading of how God rescued a screwed up life and turned it into something that shines and is restored to what it was meant to be.
We also like to hear of real life stories of ordinary people lives rescued and turned around. It gives us hope for the world and it gives us hope for ourselves. Unfortunately we love to hear the opposite too. We love to read about Pastors who have ‘fallen from grace’, succumbing to the same sins that they once preached hatred against. We can’t wait to turn on TMZ and see which latest former child star has been arrested for drug possession.
We love to judge but we hate to be judged.
But sometimes we turn the tables on ourselves and judge ourselves just a little too harshly. The phrase ‘fallen from grace’ is used a lot when talking about fallen stars as if there is a point of no return in which we can’t make our way back into God’s or anyone else’s for that matter, good books.
But this is the problem. In a world where failures are becoming more and more obvious and celebrities are being followed 24hours by ‘journalists’ ready to catch their sinful moment on camera, porn addicts still have their sins hidden and kept from their closest friends and families. There is no one to judge them so we judge ourselves instead.
And so we tell ourselves lies like “I will never be free” or “if anyone was to find out they would hate me and I would lose their love”. Then we continue in our cycles and we hate ourselves more and more.
Forgiving others may be easy. Forgiving ourselves is a little bit more tricky.
If you spend a lot of time wondering how people will react if they knew your sin you give too much time and head space to something that you can’t control. When in reality most people are excited and glad that you are open with them and ultimately want to help you.
When we left the Prodigal son he had just learned this lesson. He had just been thrown a huge party like it was 99ad and was welcomed home by his forgiving father. His brother on the other hand was not so welcoming. He had stayed and worked hard for his father while his brother was out squandering his inheritance and wasting his life. For his father to throw a party, and to have to sit and smile and to agree with Uncles and Aunts who claimed “how wonderful it is to have your brother home” must have been like a huge public slap to the face.
A lot of the time we are like the other brother. We watch as people who have stature and celebrity and wealth take it and waste it. We get angry because if we had that power we would use it for good. We would use it for God. So we judge them and we rejoice when they fall.
Then when our best friend comes to us and tells us that they are struggling with porn we are there ready to offer words of grace and love.
When it comes to dishing out grace and forgiveness we have a skewed perception problem. Famous people aren’t deserving of love but ordinary people are. Porn stars don’t deserve to be loved by God but your best friend porn addict is.
The father took the older son aside and tried to explain to him that His love and forgiveness for them was unconditional. That everything that the Prodigal Son was getting now, he had enjoyed the whole time.
He just hadn’t seen it.
The Prodigal son and the older brother are more similar than we think. They both missed a hugely important point.
Their restoration and forgiveness was the same. They both needed to be forgiven for assuming they knew how their father dished out grace.
So when it comes to forgiveness forget everything you think you know about what is fair.
You don’t have to stay and work hard and accumulate love for when you sin.
You can already enjoy it.
You don’t need to learn to forgive yourself for all the things you have done in your past that are haunting you. In fact you can’t.
You just need to look up and receive it.
And it didn’t matter that you wandered off.
What matters is that you are home.