Coming Home

It is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible.  It’s about a young man, demanding his inheritance, squandering it, then, with tail tucked between his legs, making his way home – not as a son – but as a servant.  Humiliating.

But the loving Father would have none of it.

Even though the boy’s older brother – who had always behaved himself – didn’t like it and felt it supremely unfair…

The loving Father would have none of it.

The lost son was home – at last – and that was cause for a party.

I love the story because it speaks not so much about “fairness” as mercy – not so much about “sin” as grace.

It isn’t cheap grace.  It isn’t a free ride.  The wayward son has to face his own foolish behavior and come home begging forgiveness.

But what a beautiful response from the father – and what a picture of our Heavenly Father.

The older son has to face some inner demons too.  Even though we might appreciate how “unfair” he thinks the father’s response is – surely it can touch us, if we will let it, to help us ponder how the higher road is always mercy not judgment, graceful forgiveness, not pure, cold “justice.”

So – the scripture reminds us in this beautiful tale how much celebration there is in heaven over the lost being found – and the lost being welcomed home.

The only question is – are we willing to celebrate – indeed, are we willing to offer such grace to others?

In short, are we willing to love as we have been loved?

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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