Where’s the turning point in the parable of the two sons? (Yes, that again).
Is it ‘coming to himself’ in the pig-sty?
If that’s the turning point in the son’s life, repentance will look like weighing things up and choosing obedience.
What’s wrong with that? Well for one it effectively makes the prodigal his own saviour.
But aside from this. Let’s think about how this paradigm would affect our understanding of ongoing repentance.
Basically, if repentance happens in the sty, when we sin we will think, ‘Darn it, I’ve left the Father’s house, I’m away from His love. But now I need to clean up my act, prepare my repentance speech and return to His service.’
But is that really the turning point of the story? I’m not talking in terms of literary devices. I’m asking the question, What is the point that determines the prodigal’s fate? What is the decisive moment for his life? Is it ‘coming to himself’ in the sty?
No. Of course not. He could have devised the greatest repentance plan known to man and still been rightly shunned by his father. The true turning point was the father’s embrace.
The real change in the prodigal – both his change of status and of heart – truly happens in the arms of the father. That’s where repentance occurs.
Imagine yourself in those arms. You may have been sorry before, now you loathe youself. Yet you cannot escape his love. You had thought you stank in the sty. Now you feel your stench to the core. Yet you are held close. You had composed a repentance speech. Now your awareness of sin is overwhelming. But you’re enfolded in grace.
This is true repentance – that which occurs in the Father’s embrace. And this is where our ongoing repentance occurs.
When we sin, do we consider ourselves to be in the pig sty – the long journey back home stretches ahead of us? Or do we consider ourselves to be already in the Father’s arms? There’s a big difference.
I remember speaking with a Christian man about his extra-marital affair from years earlier. As he spoke about the pain of those memories I said to him “You realise that in the midst of the very worst of that, Jesus was rejoicing over you as a Bridegroom rejoices over His bride.” He paused for a long time and said “That makes it a hundred times worse!” I said “Yes it does. A thousand times worse.” We think that we manage to sin away in a corner somewhere. No, no, no. Just read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 to see that we are very much united to Christ in our sin!
We stink of pig in the Father’s arms. That’s a thousand times worse than stinking in the sty. But it’s a million times better too.
The point of our turning – and our life of turning and turning again to the Father – is in His unchanging embrace. When you sin don’t imagine yourself alone in the sty. You are there in His arms – reeking and held fast. It’s a thousand times worse. A million times better.