"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’ ” Luke 15:21
I’ll make a confession if you promise not to tell.
Having been selected to represent my college in a traveling music team one summer, I had a few days to relax at home before returning to campus for a week of practice before we started our tour. During my short visit home I discovered a bag of M-80s in my dresser drawer. In case you don’t know, M-80s are like firecrackers on steroids! Deciding that these would be perfect boredom breakers during our pre-tour rehearsals, I brought them back to campus and wasted no time showing them to my friends. No sooner had I pulled them out of the bag than someone mentioned that they go off under water.
The bathroom down the hall provided the perfect laboratory to prove the claim. I opened one of the stall doors, lit the M-80, and dropped it into the toilet bowl. I backed into the shower stall nearby and waited. For a few quiet seconds, nothing happened. But then—KABOOM! I opened up the stall door to find thousands of porcelain shards and a gaping hole in the floor where the toilet used to be!
Since there were only five of us on campus, I knew that it would not take long for the authorities to find the culprit, so I decided it would be best to make a preemptive strike and contact the Dean of Students immediately. We had a brief conversation, talking about me paying for the damage and other potential consequences, and then I headed off for our first week of summer tour, thinking: There, that takes care of that!
But when we came back to campus for some supplies after our first week on the road, I was informed that the president of the college wanted to see me in his office. Gulp! What made matters worse was that the president was a close and long-standing friend of our family.
After dropping the M-80 into the toilet bowl, it never crossed my mind that the real problem with my foolishness was not a blasted toilet and a flooded bookstore below the bathroom. The problem was that I had offended an important person in my life and had potentially damaged a significant relationship.
This is exactly what Jesus is getting at in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:21. While we normally think that the boy’s guilt relates to his dabblings in the darker side of life in a faraway land, that’s not Christ’s point. The prodigal asked for his inheritance early, which in that day was like saying to his dad, “I wish you were dead!” And in addition, he squandered a portion of the family estate, which was an equally egregious offense to his father.
The story of the prodigal was told to demonstrate that our sin is first and foremost a deep offense to God. It’s easy to focus on the external consequences of sin by playing games of cover-up, using repentance as a strategy for damage control so that we can get on with life. But the heart of true repentance is an acknowledgement of grief and sorrow over the way that we have personally offended our God who has given us so much and who loves us so deeply.
Thankfully, God—like the prodigal’s father—waits for us to come and repent of our sin against Him so that He can stun us with His compassionate grace of forgiveness and restoration. How good it is to hear Him say, “Kill the fatted calf. Let’s have a party! My son who was lost has come home!”
- How do you normally think of your sin: not wanting to get caught, making excuses, not wanting to sin because of the consequences? Or, do you see your sin as an offense against a trusted friend and gracious God?
- Read through Luke 15:11-32. What insights can you glean about true repentance and forgiveness as you read the story?
- Take some time to talk to your Father today. Bring your sin to Him, humbly apologizing for the ways you have hurt Him, and experience the joy of His immense grace and forgiveness that covers and restores you to Him.