This is the sixth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.Dear Lover of Prodigals,Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is a powerful story of forgiveness and redemption. When Jean Valjean is released from a 19-year prison sentence for stealing bread, he is a hardened man. Looking for a place to sleep, he is invited in by a kind bishop. In the night, though, Valjean stole silver from the bishop and sneaked away.In the morning the police brought him to the bishop, silver in hand. The bishop’s response: “So there you are. I’m delighted to see you. Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well? Did you forget to take them?” And to the police: “This gentleman was no thief. This silver was my gift to him.”That was the beginning of Valjean’s transformation.
Err on the side of grace
That story had a powerful impact on my response to our prodigal. It coincided, in the darkest days of our journey with our son, with a strong word from God: When you make mistakes with this boy—and I made many—err on the side of grace.What? What about consequences? Of course there were consequences. What about enabling? No, we didn’t want to enable. It takes supernatural wisdom to blend these things.But God was clear: Forgive. Extend grace. Seek reconciliation. Pursue conversation, not conflict. Keep your doors—and arms—open. It’s not a balancing of truth and grace—it’s a blending of 100% truth and 100% grace.God is our model here. When I want to make sure my prodigal experiences what he deserves, I think of how God has responded to my many bad choices: Mercy. Forgiveness. Grace.
Keep on forgiving
His Word is equally powerful:“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34)Philip Yancy, in What’s So Amazing About Grace,” writes: “Like grace, forgiveness has about it the maddening quality of being undeserved, unmerited, unfair….The gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness…grace is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations. Grace alone melts ungrace.”Henri Nouwen defines forgiveness as “love practiced among people who love poorly” He goes on: “…even as I have said [I forgive you]…I still wanted to hear the story that tells me I was right…I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving praise in return…for being so forgiving“But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself….It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life….it demands that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged, and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and one whom I am asked to forgive.”And again from Philip Yancey: “…forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am…I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy…Though wrong does not disappear when I forgive, it loses its grip on me and is taken over by God, who knows what to do.”Finally, a word from Lewis Smedes: “The first and only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgivenss….When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”
A Prayer of Forgiveness
Following is a brief prayer that you might want to pray, expressing your choice to forgive your loved prodigal. You may have to pray it many times.Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your death on the cross. Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small. I am so grateful for your grace.Lord, I need to forgive ___________, my loved one who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me. It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused. So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________. Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________. I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me. I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person I love. I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love. Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed. And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name. What about you? Is there someone you need to forgive?c2012 Judy DouglassIf you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.