There is a bigger picture than most of us realize. Even if we do realize it, we may not fully comprehend it because it’s more real than anything that exists here. It requires having the faith to know something greater is happening in our lives.
We all have a past. We all can look back at unsavory moments in our lives and cringe. At times we might think quietly to ourselves:
How could I have done that?
How could I have acted that way?
How could I have believed those things?
How could I have encouraged others to join me in thinking that way?
I’m so sorry and so ashamed about that.
There’s the World’s Way…
You probably know Jesus’s parable about the prodigal son. Though many points of reflection stem from this story, it offers an example of how many of us think once we come back to God. Let’s take a look:
After requesting his share of the inheritance early, the son goes off and blows it all on wild living. Eventually he finds himself broke during a famine and takes up work as a pig farmer to make it by, wishing he could even eat the food of the pigs. He had sunk to the lowest of the low, and his last hope was to return to his father and beg for sincere forgiveness.
Upon seeing his father, the son decided he would:
1) Admit he sinned against heaven
2) Admit he sinned against his father
3) Declare himself unworthy as a son and beg his father to allow him to work as a hired servant on the land
He had signed off on any expectations; in fact, his only intentions were to seek forgiveness and make a humble request to become a day laborer. He may not have felt he deserved that much.
Can’t we all relate? We’ve been given so much. We’ve squandered so much.
There’s God’s Way…
We could feel sorry for ourselves and believe that we’re doomed, but that’s not an attitude coming from God. We have to open up to the big picture and absorb this: His love overwhelms our shame. To believe anything else would mean believing in a power higher than God.
In a worldly sense, we could go to someone and ask forgiveness with several possible outcomes. We could receive forgiveness. We could be given conditions — well, first you have to fulfill this request — to truly “earn” it. We could get denied completely.
God is not of the world. Yes, seeking forgiveness from others is good and restoring, we should seek to do it… but others do not hold the ultimate power. We acknowledge our sin to God because only He truly forgives and removes that sin from our soul. It’s about surrendering to His love as one already forgiven. This is not an easy concept. We don’t experience this often enough in the world to really grasp it. But remember, God is not of the world.
God does not make us earn it. We are already forgiven. There is nothing we can do by our works to gain his forgiveness.
Big Picture Living
When the prodigal son started back home, the father saw him from a distance and ran to meet him. Ran!
Just as the son planned, he apologized for sinning against heaven and against his father… but before he could finish, his father covered him with love — hugged and kissed him. He called out to his servants to do the following for his son:
1) Get the best robe
2) Put a ring on his finger
3) Get the sandals and put them on his feet
The father’s sincere joy prevailed and he threw a party to celebrate his son’s return. That’s what it’s about. When we open up to the big picture, we return home. Like the prodigal son or daughter, we can do nothing to “earn” God’s grace and forgiveness. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
— Paul in Ephesians 8:2-10