11 To further illustrate the point, he told them this story: “A man had two sons.12 When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. 14 About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. 16 The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him. And no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,19 and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21 “His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son—’
22 “But his father said to the slaves, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! 23 And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working; when he returned home, he heard dance music coming from the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 “‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast to celebrate his coming home again unharmed.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place.’
31 “‘Look, dear son,’ his father said to him, ‘you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. 32 But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’” - Luke 15:11-32 Living Bible (TLB)
What does it really mean to forgive someone? I believe there is a story that beautifully captures this it’s found in the Bible as we see above in Luke 15.
What I love about this story is we truly get a look at fearless faith. The father awaits the son. He holds nothing against him. I love other lessons we see in this text:
To fearlessly forgive we must die to our self (and the first thing that must go is pride.)
To fearlessly forgive we must return to the Father (get God’s heart.)
To fearlessly forgive we must forgive ourselves.
Over the years I have had my battles with unforgiveness, and as this story teaches I have learned the hard way unforgiveness gives birth to death.
An equation I like to share is unforgiveness is married to offense, gives birth to gossip, which in turn births division. Unforgiveness always leads to death.
But you reading today might say:
What if I have the right to hold unforgiveness? Forgive.
What if they broke trust? Forgive.
What if they abused me? Forgive.
What if? Forgive.
Listen, fearless forgiveness is not staying in a place to be mistreated or abused, it’s simply releasing them of the debt. This in turn really releases you.
As Renee quoted earlier in the week, my good friend Jay always says “Learn to love the hell out of people”. That is true forgiveness.
Father, help us to live like you and fearlessly forgive, no matter what the situation or offense. Not that we remain in bondage to our offender, but that we release both the offender and ourselves. Let us turn to you in these moments where offense seems easy and even logical. Empower us to walk in fearless faith as we fearlessly forgive. In your name, which frees all men, we pray, amen!