We’re called to emulate Christ. That is the true definition of Christian. That isn’t to say be perfect, but if you know what Christ said on an issue, you have opportunity to follow his teaching by deliberate actions.
To follow Christ’s teaching on mercy and forgiveness, let’s look at the story of the son who left his father’s house with his inheritance (Luke 15). It's understood a son who asked for his portion prior to his father’s death, was saying, “I wish you were dead, but since you aren’t give me what would be mine if you were.” Oddly, the father granted his son the goods, and watched him walk out of his life, possibly never to see or hear from him again.
It would appear the son was accustomed to household rules and possibly a small allowance, because as soon as he was in charge, he began overspending and partying like there was no tomorrow. Well, there was a tomorrow and the young man found himself suddenly broke and friendless in a strange country working on a pig farm. Hungry in the pen, watching the pigs feast on refuse, clearly enjoying life more than he was, he began thinking about his dad.
We know the thought process; he sobered up and rehearsed how he would seek forgiveness and offer to work as a hired servant on his dad’s property. Saying, “Even Dad’s servants have bread to spare.” We know he managed to hitchhike back to his country and hometown, and make his way up toward his former home.
Did the father sit daily watching for him? It seems at least he checked the horizon often hoping to see his son’s frame. Today, he stopped to look, and his heart leapt at the sight of his weary, dirty, barefoot, humble son.
Scholars teach male Jews don’t run because it’s degrading, but in a show of unabashed acceptance, his father shamelessly ran to embrace him; Scripture says, “fell on his neck and kissed him.” His son began to say, “sorry,” but his father made as though he didn’t hear him, calling the servants to quickly outfit his son with the best, cleanest garments, shoes for his feet, and slipped a ring on his finger, signifying that he belonged to this family. Like a marriage, his father let him know that “you are irrevocably mine, nothing can change that.” By stating, “This ‘my son’ was lost and is found. This is ‘my son’ who was dead, and is alive again.
The story continues; a celebratory feast was thrown that evening, with joy, music and dancing for the return of the child to his father; his family.
This is how Father God of the universe accepts us when we have even the slightest change of heart. This is how we should receive one another. As though nothing ever happened.
As humans, we want to rub in the shame and make sure the person is aware of the hurt they caused. We want to hear them say, “I was wrong, can you ever forgive me?”
Jesus gave this example to show us not only the heart of His Father, but also that as God’s errant children, how to act toward each other. To show radical mercy and forgiveness for the worst of wrongs because that is how He is toward us.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4:6).