Broken-down Poetry: Repentance, forgiveness, etc.


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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Repentance, forgiveness, etc.

Last Sunday at my church, Westminster Presbyterian, Pastor Justin preached about the Prodigal Son, one of my favorite parables of Jesus. (Cliché.) But Justin taught it in a new way, a way that made me really, really angry at first. (Foreshadowing.)

What if the prodigal son was not repentant?

This blog is dedicated to Nick, who buys me Starbucks before church every Sunday.


Last Tuesday Haley and I upset Prof. Perry (our favorite IWU professor, no matter how long it takes him to grade our exams). We were on Facebook during class, which he hates more than anything, and our conversations popped up on his news feed. 

Yes, that was a huge FAIL on our behalf. If we're going to break rules, we need to be better at breaking them. 

Anyway, I felt horrible about it - the good kind of horrible. The kind that brings me to repentance (II Cor. 7:10). Because though I've been on Facebook during this class before and Prof. Perry has known, I have never repented. I haven't really been sorry.

Side note: I've noticed that these last two posts seem very guilt-driven, and they're not really. I felt guilty about how I treated my former crush only because I hadn't done anything about it (that is, repent). I will feel guilty about disrespecting my favorite professor as long as I continue to peruse Facebook during his lectures.

So I won't anymore. Hear me, Prof. Perry, I will not be on Facebook during your class anymore. It's done. My laptop will stay in my dorm room, no matter how inconvenient it is. 


I hate disappointing people. If anything is going to bring me to repentance, it's that watery look in your eyes.


So what if the prodigal son was not sorry? What if he only came back to his father because he knew he had no other option? It's as if I'm not going on Facebook in Perry's class because he banned laptops. But I can still bring my laptop to his class. I can still be on Facebook and post rude comments about his class on his wall. (Argg.)

But I'm not. (This is beginning to sound self-righteous; I'm aware of that.)

Pastor Justin used Luke 15:17-19 to back up this theory:
"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'"
Jesus says that the prodigal son "came to his senses," but that's not the same as saying the son knew he was in the wrong. Yeah, duh eating from a feeding trough wasn't "sensible." You don't have to think you're in the wrong to know that. The text doesn't come out and say that the son was sorry, just that he knew he didn't want to be poor and hungry and dirty anymore.

Pastor Justin said that the phrase "I have sinned against heaven and against you" was meant to remind the Pharisees of the last time that phrase was used, with Pharaoh during the exodus (Ex. 10:16). I agree that this is probably true because Jesus has done this before ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," Ps. 22). And honestly, Jesus likes shocking the Pharisees. He does it a lot.

But what's interesting is that Pharaoh told Aaron and Moses that he had sinned against God and them, but he still wasn't repentant. He was just trying to get out of trouble. He didn't want another plague, but he wasn't about to let the Israelites free.

And finally, if the son was really repentant, do you think he'd really care to be a hired hand? He still wanted paid, probably to go out and go crazy all over again. Get more gambling money. Replenish the supply, so to speak. If he was sorry - truly sorry - wouldn't he be okay with being an unpaid slave?

Of course we don't know any of this for sure. And it's a little frustrating to believe that this could possibly be true if you've heard it one way your whole life. But if it is true, what does that say about Grace?

It says that God forgives us - he runs to us, embraces us, pardons us - before we ask for forgiveness. Before we even feel the need to be forgiven.


What's scary about asking for forgiveness is that no one has to forgive you. Not everyone is as gracious as the prodigal's father. No one is God.

I hate disappointing people because they aren't obligated to forgive freely. Prof. Perry could hold a grudge against me. I could've affected our relationship by my disobedience.

So ... I guess that's where we come in. That's where Christians come in. Freely we have received, freely we give.

It's up to us to forgive freely,
to hold no grudges,
to love unconditionally.

It's hard. I know.


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