Mike came a long way in his life, all the way from atheism to Christianity. Keith had a special hand in turning him around. Unfortunately, discouragement set in and he lost his way again for awhile. When this illness hit him, with some words from his wife and Keith, he made the determination to come home. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to sit in a pew again and commune with his spiritual family after he made that decision. Things progressed too quickly and he was gone far sooner than anyone expected, including the doctors.
When I read the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, I notice something important. The Father was out there looking for his lost son. It wasn’t just a casual glance—he saw him “afar off.” This was a Father who wanted to see his son coming home, who wanted to welcome him back. He stood there looking long and hard for the first sign of that figure trudging down the road.
Mike’s Father was looking for him too. Mike had made that determination—he was well on the road home, even having mentioned it to some brethren who visited. Who is to say that he wasn’t close enough for God to see him coming? Who is to say that God hadn’t already started running down the road to welcome him home?
Probably some older brother, that’s who. I have some of those—brethren who not only expect that long march down the aisle (as if there is a verse requiring that in the New Testament) before they will even consent to forgiving, but who won’t even look down the road in the first place. I have brethren who are not thrilled with the return of a lost brother but just as grieved as the prodigal’s older brother was. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who actually seem to enjoy being cynical—“it’ll never last.”
But I praise God that He is a Father who is merciful, who wants to forgive, who actually looks for reasons to forgive, instead of reasons to condemn.
None of us deserves God’s mercy. Perhaps if we remembered that, we would be eagerly looking to forgive too.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful, Luke 6:36.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet 3:9.