Jump Start # 1984
Luke 15:18 “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in your sight”
I was thinking about the prodigal the other day. A person needs to make things right to be right. If a person has stolen something, then he ought to return it. But there are times when all a person can do is to say, “I’m sorry.” There is no fixing things. There is no making things right again.
For instance, in this parable, the prodigal was given his share of his father’s estate. It took his father a lifetime to build that estate. The prodigal wasted it all. He came home broke. He had no money to return to his father. Likely, his father would not live long enough to ever recover what he had given the prodigal. It was gone. All the prodigal could do was say, “I’m sorry.”
The same is true with the sin of an abortion. A person can realize later on that killing the unborn was not right but it’s too late to undo what has been done. Saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ will not bring the child back to life.
The consequences and nature of some sins are such that a person cannot return things to the way they once were. They can repent. They can stop the sin. They can say that they are sorry. However, there are situations in which nothing can be done to restore things. While it is true that you can always go back home to God, it is also true that there are times in which you can never make things the way they once were. The destructive consequences of sin takes a toll upon our hearts and our families. People that are thoughtlessly ruining their lives and hurting others may someday stop but the path of destruction that they have left may never be restored again.
From this we ought to see two simple thoughts.
First, saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ doesn’t fix things. It needs to be said. It needs to be genuine. It should be demonstrated by a changed life and better choices and righteous living. But “I’m sorry,” isn’t a magical band-aide that heals wounds quickly. Our sins can kill friendships. Our sins can ruin trust. Coming home where we need to be is important, but so often we don’t see the hurt that we have caused. We can feel sorry. We can say, “I’m sorry.” However, the wounds remain. The damage has been done.
Second, sometimes saying “I’m sorry,” is all that you can do. You can’t fix everything that you broke. Making it up sometimes can not be done. That leaves the prodigals feeling empty and as if there is something that they still need to do. But nothing can be done. Cry all the tears you want, yet, some things will never be the same again.
We can make the prodigals in our lives feel like indentured servants. We can make them feel like they “owe” us. The punishment may never end. The feelings never restored nor forgiven. We feel like we have been robbed, violated and taken advantage of, and all they did was say, “I’m sorry.” Some would say, “that’s not enough.” How do you “undo” rape or sexual abuse? It can’t be done. So, the prodigal says he’s sorry. He can’t repay his father. He can’t undo the wasteful abuse of his father’s gift. All he can say is, “I’m sorry.”
For the prodigal, he feels like a heel. He wants to do more, but he can’t. He can’t make things right. For the father, who was taken advantage of, he can hold it over the prodigal the rest of his life. He can make him work until he has repaid what was lost. But we know how the story truly goes. The father rushes out and embraces the sorry prodigal. He calls for the robe, sandals and a ring. A feast is prepared. A celebration takes place. Were things made right? No. It was the father’s choice of forgiveness.
It’s one thing if someone took something and lost it or ruined it and they replaced it. Everything is just about back to normal. But in situations like the prodigal, grace and forgiveness is what the father offered. His son back was worth more than the money lost. A relationship repaired. A love shared.
It’s hard when someone has hurt you. It’s hard when all they say is, “I’m sorry.” It’s hard when “I’m sorry,” is all that they can do. It’s hard when things will never be the same because money is lost, or property is ruined, or people have been hurt. We, who have been hurt, feel as if something more ought to be done. Some payment ought to be offered. But when all they have to put on the table is an “I’m sorry,” it is up to us to decide whether or not we will offer grace and forgiveness or continue to be hurt and expect something from them.
This forgiveness business is hard. It’s hard when in our minds we think, “This is what I would do.” Yet, the person doesn’t do that. It’s hard when we suffer a loss and all we get is, “I’m sorry.” The lack of forgiveness will ruin relationships, leads to us being bitter and can quickly fill our minds with wrath and hatred. That’s not a place to go. Two wrongs, my mom always told me, never makes a right. Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, eventually leads to two blind and toothless men, who are more miserable than before. Getting even or making things right, as we might call it, never seems to work fairly.
The prodigal came home. All he had to offer was an apology. The money was gone. It probably was never going to be replaced, at least not in the father’s lifetime. There were open wounds. The father chose to close those wounds by extending grace and forgiveness. That’s where you and I are. We are at the intersection of either closing those wounds up by offering grace and forgiveness or keeping those wounds open by expecting, demanding and hoping for some sort of repayment. Until that repayment is made, those wounds never close. God chose forgiveness. The father in Luke 15 chose forgiveness.
What do you choose?