Some time ago a friend stopped by the church for a visit.
While he was there, I showed him around the building. As we were touring the basement, he noticed there was some electrical wiring that was just run along the wall where it joined the ceiling. He suggested that it would look better and be safer if we used a conduit to rout the cabling.
He returned in a day or two with tools and supplies in hand and informed me that he had come to fix our little problem. About an hour later, the job was done and he had been right, it looked much nicer.
I know that he is an electrical contractor by trade, so I asked him to give me the bill so I could have the treasurer write him a check. He smiled and told me there was no charge. He did it because it needed doing, because we were friends, and besides, he added with a smile, we couldn’t afford his hourly rate.
I got to thinking about friend’s actions — and his words. They sounded vaguely familiar. So I thought about it some more and I realized why I recognized the story. Jesus had done the same thing.
God offered and continues to freely offer grace and forgiveness. There is no small print. It requires nothing more than that we repent, believe and be saved. The only catch being that you have to accept God’s gracious gift . But that seems too simple for us. We want salvation to be harder to obtain and we prefer to pay for it ourselves. Well, as my friend said, there is no bill and even if there was, you can’t afford it.
Jesus once told about a man and his two sons. Many refer to it as the parable of the prodigal son. If you are interested, Luke recorded all of the details in his gospel, Chapter 15:11-32 coded. In this story the, youngest boy rebelled against his father. He had demanded and received his inheritance, and then had promptly squandered it making a mess of his life. The rebellious son soon fell victim to his foolishness and was in danger of starving to death. Out of this desperation he decided to go back to his father. He knew better than to ask for anything more than a job and enough to eat.
Much to the young man’s surprise, his father had long ago forgiven him and was there at the gate waiting for him to return. There was no question about having earned forgiveness and he certainly could not repay what he had squandered. The good news is that he didn’t have to. Out of love, the father chose to forgive. In case you missed it, let me point out we are the rebellious son, and God is the forgiving parent.
Forgiveness is God’s choice and we are the fortunate recipients. The real question is will we accept it or just keep doing what we have been doing — wrestling with our guilt trying to pay a bill that was paid a long time ago?
John R. Fowler is the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.