We All Need Repentance
The text this week is Luke 15:1-10. This mostly contains two parables about the rejoicing in heaven over those who return in a penitent state. Notably, these parables occur after the Pharisees were grumbling about Jesus consorting with tax-collectors and sinners. This is notable because we all think repentance is about someone else. Our attitude is likely much akin to the Pharisees; look at those sinners over there. Rather, we should look at the sinner in the mirror.
All of us at some time or another, to some degree or another, have lost our way. We have all committed sins and done things we regret. It’s called being human, and no one is exempt. The Pharisees are likely irritated that Jesus offers redemption and forgiveness and a place in the community for those whom they consider “unworthy”. This too is an all too human response, but it is one we best fight. That is the point of the two parables Jesus offers after the Gospel writer acknowledges the irritation of the Pharisees.
The two parables offered; one about a lost sheep and the other about a lost coin are instructive for us. We, in true Pharisaical fashion are tempted to wonder why all the fuss about the return of a wayward soul. Why not commend those who never stray? First, as pointed out above we all stray. Second, Jesus is not claiming that God is not joyful at the presence of those not lost. He loves all of us beyond measure, so of course God is joyous at those not (at the moment) lost.
Yet, the particular and perhaps extra joy that God feels toward those who return should not be disconcerting to us, but rather a source of joy and comfort. People are welcomed back into community, or perhaps, into community for the first time. They are joyfully welcomed back into relationship with God and with the whole community of faithful followers. As followers of Jesus the Christ, we too should welcome all such returnees into the community with open arms.
This does not mean that we are not joyful at those who have not strayed. However, the true comfort here is that we know that at some point we will all stray, so God’s (and by implication our own) welcome back means that we are never without a home, or a place to which we can return. We are never far from God’s Grace and His forgiveness.
One immutable truth of this universe is that God loves us more than we could possibly love Him, and He wants a relationship with us more than we could possibly want a relationship with Him. So much so that He will always joyfully welcome any of us who return to that relationship. God is forever waiting for us to return and will celebrate most joyously when we do. So we are to reject the pettiness of the Pharisees and recognize that we all at some time or other need to be welcomed back into the fold.
When that day occurs or more likely, reoccurs we can be comforted in knowing that our return will be welcomed most joyously. Therefore we should joyously welcome the return of anyone else as a good and proper response to God’s gift of grace upon grace. It’s all just another way of God telling us to believe and obey.
Praise Be to God