I have. If you are honest, you have too. We have all messed up. We have all made more than a mistake. What we did was – well to put it bluntly – wrong. We sinned against God and man.
We are the “prodigal” son of Luke 15. If you are thinking, “No, not me!” Then you are the other prodigal son that never left home, you are the judgmental and ungrateful elder brother. You messed up, so did I, and so did “Jim.”
Jim broke the law. Jim’s Driver’s License was held until he went to the clerk and paid a fine. He had a couple of days to come-up with the fine. If he did not pay the it, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. Jim was nineteen years old and living on his own that summer, almost 500 miles from home. Jim and his friend, Frank, rented a Jon Boat and rowed out to the lake. Frank had some tackle and a new pole and wanted to try it out. Jim was from out-of-state and did not have a fishing license, so he did not fish. Frank cast out a few times and did not get any nibbles. They moved to different spot on the lake and Frank tried again. After an hour or so with the Georgia sun beating down on them, they decided to return the boat and go for a swim. The return to shore was farther than they thought and Jim, who did most of the rowing while Frank fished decided that Frank needed a turn at the oars. While Frank rowed toward shore, Jim picked up the pole, he wanted to see how this new pole felt. He cast out twice never baiting the hook.
A man in an olive green truck was watching from the shore and considered that fishing. When they came ashore, he asked to see their fishing licenses. Jim knew he was in the wrong. He asked if not using bait counted for something, but the Game Warden was unmoved. He took Jim’s out-of-state Driver’s License and wrote him a citation explaining how long Jim had to pay the fine and where to pay it.
Like Jim, you and I have messed up. Maybe it was recently. Maybe it was today. You have disappointed yourself, your family, your church family, and God. Do you remember the “prodigal” son? Luke records Jesus’ words,
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” (Luke 15:17-22)
God, lovingly and graciously, longs to welcome you back. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). No matter what you have done, no matter how bad you think you have messed up, God wants you back and so does your forever family.
Fortunately, Jim had been paid that morning and had cashed his check. He persuaded the Game Warden to follow him to the police station where he could pay the fine that afternoon. Jim paid the fine, had is Driver’s License returned, avoided a warrant and potential jail time, and went to his apartment with feelings of self-disappointment, fear, guilt, sorrow, and relief that things did not escalate farther.
Did I mention that Jim was a ministry student doing an internship as a youth minister? Did I mention that his friend in the boat with him was one another college student and member of the church where Jim was interning? Did I mention that Jim realized his reputation in the youth group, with the parents, and in Calhoun, GA was in jeopardy? Did I mention that the first call he made was to the preacher who was guiding his internship and the second was to one of the elders of the church he was working for? Did I tell you that Jim is now in his fifties and not sure if he ever told his parents this story? Did I tell you Jim’s real name is Scott?
Yeah, I have messed up. I think you have too. But we serve the God of grace.