The Road Home

We make a lot of stupid decisions for a lot of different reasons.

Some we make out of haste. Others are born of jealousy and greed. Sometimes we’re just being simple-minded and foolish, and other times we act out of desperation. The point is, life is a series of choices—and we’re going to make some stupid ones along the way.

It’s to be expected. The Bible tells us that “a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again” (Proverbs 24:16). We don’t take pride in our poor choices, and we certainly don’t make them a goal, but we know that when we do make them (because we will make them), we repent, we dust ourselves off, and we keep moving forward.

Except sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we decide, for whatever reason, that the best way to follow up our stupid decision is to make another decision of equal or greater stupidity. And another. And another.

And another.

And after a while, we’re so far off the beaten path that we can’t even see the trail anymore. It’s obscured behind a mountain of regrettable choices—a mountain we were hard at work creating, maybe without even realizing it. And we wonder, What in the world am I doing all the way out here? What was I thinking? I have to get back!

But can we?

After so many wrong turns, is it possible to return to the road we left behind? If it is, would God even take us back? Can we be so far gone that returning is no longer an option?

Coming to our senses

I think about King David a lot when it comes to this. At the lowest point in his recorded life, David was guilty of coveting, of adultery, of deception, of conspiracy, of murder, and of putting all these things before God. He was so far gone that he couldn’t even recognize himself in a parable told by one of God’s prophets (2 Samuel 12:7, 9). He was separated from his Maker by his own mountain of terrible choices. How could he possibly return to God after straying so far for so long?

When the Pharisees and tax collectors complained that Jesus Christ shared meals with sinners, He gave them several parables on the subject. The very last one has become famous in its own right—a parable many know as the story of the prodigal son. It’s the story of a young man who demands his inheritance from his father and then proceeds to squander it on what the English Standard Version renders “reckless living” (Luke 15:13, ESV). What kind of reckless living? We’re not given all the details, but his older brother later accuses him of devouring his father’s livelihood with harlots (Luke 15:30). The clear implication is that the prodigal son was living an extremely hedonistic lifestyle—if it brought pleasure, he pursued it.

After burning through his entire inheritance and finding himself in the middle of a famine, the young man was reduced to feeding pigs as an indentured servant—envying the pigs for having food while he starved. We don’t know how much time passed between the son’s departure and his servitude, but we’re told that eventually “he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). I love the phrase—it’s a glimpse into the son’s thoughts that mirrors one we’ve all had at one time or another: What on earth was I thinking?

The unthinkable

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_(Le_retour_de_l'enfant_prodigue)_-_James_Tissot
Le retour de l’enfant prodigue by James Tissot

You likely know the rest of the story. Realizing where his terrible choices have led him, the prodigal son returns home to beg forgiveness and to seek employment among his father’s servants. His father, instead of casting his son back out or even accepting his offer, does the unthinkable—he orders his servants to dress his son in the father’s finest clothing and to hold a feast in honor of his return (Luke 15:18-23).

Why?

More importantly, how? How could his father meet him with anything but fury and disappointment? The son had wasted an inheritance the father had spent a lifetime storing up—wasted it on prostitutes and other hedonistic pleasures. But rather than scold his son, he throws him a feast.

The prodigal son’s older brother had the same question, to which his father replies:

It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.

(Luke 15:32)

Back from the dead

When we set out like King David or the prodigal son on a road of stupid decisions—a road of sin—we cut ourselves off from God. We cut ourselves off from His plan for us, and we cut ourselves off from eternal life in His Kingdom as His child.

God hates our sins because they rob Him of His children. Unless we genuinely repent and seek to change, they rob Him of His little ones for all eternity.

Maybe that sheds some light on the response of the father of the prodigal son. When we are living a sinful lifestyle and following a road of bad choices, we are dead to the Kingdom and dead to God’s family. But when we repent? When we fall before the mercy seat and ask for the blood of Christ to cover our transgressions? When we look to return to His ways? That’s when God gets His children back. That’s when God can make merry and be glad with His servants.

Too far gone?

The prodigal son was what a lot of people would call “too far gone.” He had adopted a lifestyle that flew in the face of God’s way; he had squandered his every last earthly possession in pursuit of his own pleasures. And yet after his repentance, we find him restored and welcomed home as his father’s son.

King David was what a lot of people would call “too far gone.” He had committed unthinkable crimes against God and man; he was so unfazed by his own depravity that it took the bold accusation of a prophet to jar him from his indifference. And yet after his repentance, we find him called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and prophesied to be resurrected as the future king of Israel (Ezekiel 37:24).

If there is ever a time in our lives that we believe we are too far gone, then we need to remember the lesson of the prodigal son and of King David—the only time we are too far gone is when we don’t care enough to return. If we find ourselves on a path marked by one stupid decision after another, we need to understand that God is eagerly awaiting our repentance and our return to His loving embrace. He wants us in His Kingdom. He wants us in His family. He wants us to be alive again.

If God is for us, brethren…who can be against us?

Until next time,
Jeremy

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