I was struck by something this morning and as I have fifteen minutes before I have to crack on with the rest of the day I wanted to write a little post about it because I think it’s an important point.
I think many of us are familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s a familiar tale. Son says ‘Dad, give me my inheritance.’ Dad complies and son goes off to a distant land, spends it all on wine, women and song and then, to make ends meet ends up slopping pigs. He realises that his father’s servants have a better deal than he does and so he eats a mega slice of humble pie and goes home to apologise. His father throws him a massive welcome back party and there are no recriminations; just a lot of feasting and celebration and it’s all good.
It’s widely acknowledged that this parable explains how God feels every time one of us gets to the point when our magnificent ‘sort out my life’ plans have come to naught, we’re stuck in a hole and humbly realise that God is the only way out. He rejoices and welcomes us back into the fold without, you note, sitting us down and lecturing us on why living like we were was never going to be a great life strategy. All that’s needed from us is a sincere apology and we get a party thrown for us.
It’s fabulous, but that isn’t the thing that struck me this morning. It’s the point in the story when Dad starts getting excited because PartyBoy or PartyGirl is coming home. Dad, or God, doesn’t start the celebrations when he or she is right there knocking on the door. They’re starting to leap about with excitement while they’re still a long way off. You’re not there yet, in fact you’re still still far from home, but you’re on your way and that’s the important thing.
So understanding that you’re in need of God and starting off in the direction of home is all it takes for God to start cracking open the celestial champagne in your honour. He doesn’t start when you arrive there in your best clothes, all scrubbed up and on your best behaviour. This is when you’re still in your clothes from mucking about with the pigs – and you probably smell like a pig, too! You can be the filthiest, grimiest thing on the face of the earth, but if you’ve got your face set for home with a heart that says ‘I’ve messed up and I need help’ then God is already killing the fatted calf in your honour – or knocking up a nut cutlet if you’re a vegetarian.
Let’s not get hung up about thinking that you have to be perfect before God will take any notice of you. This parable tells you quite plainly that that isn’t the way God does business. You can’t see him, but he can see you and he’s excited that you’re coming. He’s going to lavish you with kisses and the good stuff when you get there, but nevertheless, know that just setting off in the direction of home is all it takes for him to get the party started.
“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” Luke 15:7
It’s the ultimate ‘come as you are’ party. And it’s in your honour.