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But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:32

You see the stories. A child is lost. Parents beg for help and the safe return of their precious child. Teams of law enforcement personnel and volunteers form quickly to find the child. News reports are issued and everyone, everyone is called on to look for the child.

In far too many cases, the scenario ends sadly, but in those situations where the child is found safe there is great celebration. Tears of joy and ‘high-fives’ abound. Heartfelt ‘thank-yours’ come from parents and family members. The child is home, safe and in the arms of those who love him/her.

In the spiritual realm there is also much rejoicing when a ‘child comes home’. Think of the jubilation we feel and multiply it a thousand-fold in heaven. What is significant in the story of the prodigal son isn’t what happened so much as what we don’t find.

There is no questioning about the prodigals sincerity upon his return. No period of ‘probation’ to see if he really had changed his ways. No consequences laid out before the party could happen.

Note the wording in the NIV. ‘But we HAD to celebrate.’ There was no question in the father’s mind. No second thoughts. No apprehension. A celebration had to happen and the sooner the better.

Too often, we who are steeped in years of ‘church-iness’ are cautions in our acceptance of those who ‘return home’. Oh, we celebrate initially because that’s what you do, but at the first sign of a slip-up we tend to think ‘well, you can’t really change those kind can you?’

Too often we require steps to spirituality to prove the life-change in a person before we accept them ‘back’ into the fold. Remember too that the prodigal represents one that was in the ‘fold’ at one time and left. By today’s standards we would think of him as a once-upon-a-time church-goer who’d left the faith, tarnished our good name and then returned for forgiveness.

When a sinner comes home to the Father it doesn’t matter if he comes for the first time or comes after going astray. The Father welcomes him back with open arms. There is no question in his mind that the ‘prodigal’ will fail. It’s a given. The Father is never surprised by our sin. Never shocked by our lack of obedience. Never amazed when we choose our own way.

On the other hand, he is never unwilling to take us back when we come home. All of us are prodigal sons and daughters. All of us can come home again regardless of why we went astray.

PRAYER: Father you know me better than I know myself. You know how easy it is for me to stray from you. You know how hard it is to accept those who have gone astray. Thank you for forgiving us in spite of our ability to be obedient to you. Empower me with your Spirit to live according to your word. Amen.

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