Loving a Prodigal: Immersed in His Mercy
Once a month I write a letter to the wonderful Prayer for Prodigals community I am part of. Often those letters, though specific to those who love a prodigal, apply to any or all of us in the challenging circumstances of life.
Dear Lover of Prodigals,
What was the last thing your prodigal did that really exasperated you?
Lied to you? Stole from you? Drove high or intoxicated? Moved in with a girlfriend/boyfriend? Refused to go to school? Did something foolish and dangerous? Yes, and there are many more possibilities.
What was your response? I will let you name your own.What was the last thing you did that might have frustrated God—or saddened Him?
Probably not the obviously destructive things your prodigal might have done. But God is saddened by many of our choices in response to our loved ones or to other events and circumstances in our lives: anger, hurtful words, harsh punishments, fear, deceit, lack of kindness or compassion, unloving, impatient. It could be a long list.
And what was God’s response? Here are some of Jesus’ responses:
The woman at the well: Jews always avoided going through Samaria, but Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Why? He had an appointment to keep, with a sinful woman. Five husbands, now living with a man not her husband. Jesus knew all this. Yet He talked to her—a Samaritan, a woman, a sinner. The shame of it. He told her what He knew, but He didn’t condemn. Instead He offered her living water and a changed life. (John 4)
The thief on the cross: An evil man, certainly, to have earned crucifixion as punishment for his crimes. Yet, even as he is dying, he asks for mercy from Jesus. Jesus could have said, “It’s too late. You have lived a terrible life. You are only repenting now because you are afraid.” But no, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:38-43)
The woman caught in adultery: They surely had set up the “caught in the act” shaming of this woman. Dragged from her bed apparently and thrust at the feet of Jesus, she awaited His condemnation—and her own death. “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone,” He said. She cringed, anticipating. Nothing but the sound of stones dropping to the ground and feet shuffling away. “Has no one accused you or thrown a stone?” “No, Rabbi, no one has,” the amazed woman replied. “Neither do I,” Jesus said gently. “Go and sin no more.”And you and I? Surely we too often find ourselves crying out to God for mercy as David did after his sin with Bathseba:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions…” (Psalm 51:1)
We are grateful that our God is like the merciful father in Luke 15: As the prodigal wanderer returned, before he could even speak his repentance, the father ran to him, threw his arms around him, kissed him, put a cloak and a ring on him and threw a party.
Our God loves mercy. And He is willing to immerse us in His mercy:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Yes, God is opposed to sin. And sin generates consequences—some that are the natural result of choices made, others that we impose.
But our primary response should be one that flows out of the love and grace we have received. Even as we have been immersed in the mercy of our God, so should we give mercy to our prodigals.
We should be less like the Pharisees dragging in the woman caught in adultery and more like the very-wronged father who ran to his prodigal son.
May we live in this truth: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)
In His mercy,
What about you? When have you received mercy, given mercy?
c2016 Judy Douglass
If you would be interested in requesting prayer for a prodigal loved one, or being a part of our wonderful praying community, respond in comments or write to me at PrayerforProdigals at gmaildotcom.