“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.” Hosea 14:4
What can heal our waywardness? Last week I gave some conversion stories, “conversion” meaning turning around, when you realize you’re on the wrong path. In the Christian faith it means repenting of sin and receiving Christ personally—not just by going forward for Communion—as Lord and Savior. It then involves committing your life to serving Him and loving your neighbor, working for the good of society instead of selfishly pursuing your own agenda. We are all created to know our God, personally, not just about Him, and serve His Kingdom, a zone of love and righteousness. If we don’t do this, serve something bigger than ourselves, we die. As a slogan from the 60’s goes, He who is not busy being born is busy dying.
The classic biblical story of conversion is that of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15, which might better be termed “The Prodigal Father.” The wayward son maybe repented of his sinful rebellion, but at first it appears that he wanted to work his way into his father’s good graces: Make me like one of your hired servants. This is so human—thinking of conversion as trying to balance our bad deeds with good ones, so that, just possibly, we’ll be able to squeak into the “pearly gates” some day.
But as I’ve often said, especially to jail inmates, there’s no “teeter-totter” or balance beam which we can try to work in order to be good enough for heaven. And None of us Are! “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”—Ro. 3:23. One of the happiest guys I ever met was in the Fresno County Jail, facing trial for a double homicide. How in the world could he ever balance that evil by doing enough good? He was happy because he had come to know personally the One who died and arose for him, bringing him forgiveness, “justification.”
There’s no balance beam or teeter-totter; there’s the Cross, the suffering love of God, like the father who interrupted the son by saying, “Quick, put a ring on his finger, shoes on his feet and a robe on his shoulders, and prepare the fatted calf, for this my son was lost, but now is found.” Party Time! This suffering heals our waywardness, says Hosea 14.
Once you know you’re loved like that, why would you ever want to run away or rebel? Romans 2 says The kindness of God leads to repentance. “Love suffers long and is kind,” (1 Cor. 13).
A friend of mine in jail told me she became rebellious as a teenager after years of pain and sorrow because both her parents had been working overseas, since she was about 6 years old. They—like millions of parents—might have thought they were doing it for their child or children, but they were maybe ignorant of the damage they were causing them, causing widespread feelings of abandonment and resentment, and even doubts about God being “love”, as Scripture teaches. Now she knows the Heavenly Father will never leave her, never forsake her, and it’s very unlikely she will turn away from Him, again.
This story, reproduced by Nellie Favis-Villafuerte, presents a much better, truer, picture of parental love.
The unlocked door
In Glasgow, Scotland, a young lady, like a lot of teens today, got tired of home and the restraints of godly parents. The daughter rejected them and said, “I don’t want your God. I give up, I’m leaving!”
She left home, deciding to become a woman of the world. Before long, however, she became dejected with being unable to find a job, so took to the streets to sell her body as a prostitute. The years passed by, her father died, her mother grew older, and the daughter became more and more entrenched in her wretched manner of living.
No contact was made between mother and daughter in the intervening years. The mother, having heard of her daughter’s whereabouts, made her way to the skid row section of the city in search of her daughter. She began by stopping at each of the rescue missions with a simple request, “Would you allow me to put up this picture?” It was a picture of the smiling, gray-haired mother with a hand-written message at the bottom: “I love you still… come home!”
Some more months went by, and nothing happened. Then one day that wayward girl wandered into a rescue mission for a needed meal. She sat absentmindedly listening to the service, all the while letting her eyes wander over to the bulletin board. There she saw the picture and thought, Could that be my mother?
She couldn’t wait until the service was over and went to look. It was her mother, and there were those words, “I love you still… come home!” As she stood in front of the picture, she began to weep. It was too good to be true.
By this time, it was night, but she was so touched by the message that she started walking for home. By the time she arrived it was early in the morning. The wayward daughter was afraid and made her way timidly, not really knowing what to do. As she began to knock, the door flew open on its own. She thought someone must have broken into the house. Concerned for her mother’s safety, the young woman ran to the bedroom and found her still sleeping. She shook her mother awake and said, “It’s me! It’s me! I’m home!”
The mother couldn’t believe her eyes. She wiped her tears and they fell into each other’s arms. The daughter said, “I thought someone had broken open the door.”
The mother replied gently, “From the day you left, that door has not been locked.”
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
Reference: Moments to Cherish by Robert Strand