Written by Vince Antonucci.
The Bible says God is love. Not just that he can be loving. He is love.
Because he is love, God created us for relationship with him.
Because he is love, God offers us grace.
Jesus once told a story to help us understand God’s love and his offer of grace. It’s a story about a father who had two sons. This dad was a great and loving father, but even so, there came a point when the younger son decided he’d had enough of home. He wondered if there was something better out there, and he wanted to go looking for it. He no longer wanted to live his father’s way. He was tired of being good and following the rules. He went to his father and said, “I’m leaving, and I’m never coming home. If I stayed here, when you die, you’d give me half of your inheritance, so I’d like you to just give it to me now.” Basically he was saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead.”
Amazingly, his father was so loving and so respected his son’s free will (even to make bad choices) that he said yes and gave his son the money.
So the son set off and ended up in a faraway land, living a life that was the opposite of everything his father had ever taught him. He wasted all of his father’s money on girls . . . and drinking . . . and you name it. And he sort of enjoyed it for a while, but pretty soon he was out of money. And he discovered that people weren’t so interested in partying with him when he wasn’t paying for the party. His life started going downhill and finally hit rock bottom when he got a job feeding pigs. It was awful. He realized that the guys who worked for his father were treated better than he was. So he decided to go home. He assumed his father would never accept him back as a son, but he hoped maybe his father would be kind enough to give him a job and let him work on the farm.
On the walk home, he practiced the speech he’d give his father when he arrived: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, but if you’d maybe just let me work on your farm . . .”
What he didn’t know was that from the moment he had left, his father had been sitting out on the front porch, staring down the road, hoping against hope, praying prayer after prayer that his son would come home. The father held this constant vigil, staring down the road, waiting for the first sign that his son was returning.
And then it happened . . . a shadow. Could it be? The father’s breath was taken away. Yes, it was! And the father bolted. He went running down the street to his son.
In their culture men never ran—it was considered undignified. I don’t know what the son was thinking when he saw his father running at him like that, but when his father got to him, the son immediately went into his speech: “Father, I have sinned . . .”
But his father grabbed him . . . and hugged him. The son wriggled free and started again, “Father, I . . .” but his speech was muffled as his father grabbed him again and wrapped him up in the biggest hug ever. Then the father shouted back to the house, “Everyone, it’s happened! My son! My son is home! My son was lost, but now he’s found. He was gone, but he’s come home! Come bring him something nice to wear. Prepare some food, get ready to eat and dance, we’re having a party! My son is home!”
That’s grace. Grace means to get better than you deserve. What did that son deserve from his father? Punishment. Rejection. But he got a hug and a party. He got welcomed back into the family. And you have to wonder why. Why did the father run? Why the hug? Why the party? Why did he forgive? Because it was his son. If you have a child, you understand. I mean, I would do anything for one of my kids. There’s nothing they could do to make me stop loving them. That’s God. That’s God’s love.
God is a great and loving Father, and no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, he would do anything for us. There’s nothing we can do to make him stop loving us. And so God offers us far better than we deserve, and that’s grace. We can’t earn anything from God. We just accept it.
We come home.
By the way, this is what makes Christianity different from the way any human being would approach God and different from every other world religion. It’s this idea of grace.
Humans believe we need to be deserving. We would never come up with grace.
If you study the other religions of the world, you’ll see that none of them have this idea of grace. The core idea of every other world religion is that we have to earn favor from God—through our good works, by not sinning too much. Only Christianity says we can’t earn it, but God loves us so much that he will forgive us and give us his good favor as a gift.
This is where the story Jesus told got really interesting. It seemed like the story was over, with the joyful return of the younger son. But right as the father was announcing the party, the older son entered the story. He said, “What’s going on here?” Dad said, “Your brother, my son—he’s home. We’re having a party!” The older son said, “But I’ve worked for you. I’ve labored for you. I’ve never disobeyed. I’ve earned the party.”
That’s the natural way humans approach God. That’s every other world religion. For them it’s all about laboring for God, trying not to disobey, and earning God’s favor. Christianity is the opposite: it’s about grace; it says God loves you simply because you’re his child. He loves you no matter what you’ve done.
And that’s what the father said to this older son. He said, “Earned it? What do you mean? You’re my son. You can’t earn my love. I love you . . . just because you’re my son. And your brother here—he couldn’t lose my love, because he’s my son.” That’s Christianity. That’s God.
God is love. God’s love is perfect. There’s nothing you could ever do to make him love you any more than he does right now. And there’s nothing you could ever do to make him love you any less. You’re not perfect, but his love for you is.
So no matter why you left, no matter where you went, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve become, God is inviting you to come home. He’s waiting to forgive you. He’s offering his love to you. He wants a relationship with you. And you have a choice to make.
Unless you have already come to the realization that your life without God is not what you want it to be,
unless you’ve already taken the journey home,
unless you’ve already expressed your repentance to God,
unless you’ve already felt his embrace and received his forgiveness,
God is waiting for you.
The most important decision of your life awaits.
I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t say yes. All the things you’ve really been looking for, you’ll find if you look to God.
Say yes. Tell him.
If you’ve said yes in the past, understand that God offers his invitation to you to come home every single day. And he wants us to accept it again every single day.
I find that I have a lot of days when I’m too busy or too distracted to come home to God.
I also have days when I feel too dirty or too guilty to come home to God.
But there is nothing in any far-off land better than what my Father is offering me at home.
And there’s nothing I’ve done to put myself out of the reach of his grace.
So I listen, and I hear God calling out to me: Come home.
Listen, because God is calling to you. He’s been inviting you every day of your life; he is inviting you today; his call will go out to you every day of your future.
Vince Antonucci pastors Verve, an innovative church that seeks to reach people who work on and live around the Las Vegas Strip. The upcoming television series God for the Rest of Us will chronicle Vince’s work there. In addition to writing books, Vince leads mission trips around the world, speaks nationwide, performs stand-up comedy in Las Vegas, and most of all, loves spending time with his wife, Jennifer, and their two kids. vinceantonucci.com/