A while ago my friends were amazed to hear their five year old daughter, Lindsay, telling her little friend about Jesus. The children were sitting on the front steps of the house, and the parents snuck up to the window to see and hear better. Lindsay told her friend that if she believed in Jesus and prayed, He would forgive her sins and she would go to Heaven. The little girl was convinced, and prayed. When she was done praying, she looked up at my friend’s daughter and asked, “Will my mommy be in Heaven too?” Lindsay thought for a moment and replied, “Yeah, if she believes in Jesus. But if you don’t want her there, don’t tell her about Jesus!”
Ernest Campbell said that the biggest problem with American Christianity is that we have a Loving Father Gospel in an Elder Brother church. Some of the people who have the most difficult time with forgiving are Christians. A few weeks ago, when the first woman since the Civil War was executed in Texas, it was interesting to watch the public’s response. I was amazed to hear Pat Robinson of the 700 Club appeal for clemency. Would normally be odd for a minister to appeal for clemency except Rev. Robinson has always taught “an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Not quite what we expected.
My associate in Pine Bluff had a very unusual funeral. The man was not a Christian and had loved being a cowboy. Instead of flowers on the casket they put a cowboy hat. For the music they played “Happy Trails.”
There are things that we do in life that are wrong, not because they are immoral or illegal, but because they are inappropriate. The same action, at another time and place, would be fitting.
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. The story is filled with the unexpected – why would any father go ahead and give his child half of the estate? Many of us couldn’t afford to do that. Even if we could, it is simply not wise. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. One of our problems as parents is giving everything that our children ask for to them. A father was telling me that he had just given his daughter a new car (BMW). This is the same daughter who had just flunked out of college. I said, “Let me get this straight, she flunks out and you reward her with a new car?” “Well, she’s had such a struggle, and was so upset over last semester. I didn’t want her to take her failure the wrong way. I thought she needed a boost.” Now, there are times and places where such a gift would be appropriate. But a parent who rewards failure is asking for trouble. That was the wrong things to do at the wrong time.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to feed pigs. He is getting what he deserves we say. But I thought Christians were to be forgiving? This young man has to learn a lesson. But to feed pigs, which is offensive, is the worst job possible.
When he came to his senses, (do we know what it is to “come to our senses?)” he planned his strategy for forgiveness. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.”
So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Wait a minute, where is the older son? “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. If you were the older son wouldn’t you want to be invited to the party? When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. `Your brother has come,’ he replied, `and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. Wouldn’t you? A party? After what he had done! On top of that, he hadn’t even been invited to the party. So his father went out and pleaded with him. “`My son,’ the father said, `you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
Isn’t it God who has always done the unexpected? Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. (Matt 18:12)
Here we are in Lent, a time of prayer and repentance. A time to be mournful and sorrowful for the lives we have lived. But it is hard to be sad when someone has found God. When the long lost child has come home.
LUK 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV)