I was sitting in a gas station just the other day sitting at a table and drinking a beverage. Then the song was playing on the radio, “Sometimes ‘goodbye’ is a second chance” and as odd as it might seem, it was as if God was using just some ordinary song to speak to my life.
I have actually thought often about a meaningful passage of Scripture that has been special to me for a few years now.
that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. (Philemon 1:10-16)
Onesimus had been Philemon’s run away slave, and had stolen from Philemon when he ran away. What happened though was later on Onesimus meets the Apostle Paul and becomes a believer in Christ Jesus alao. Paul pleads as a friend and spiritual father figure of Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as a freed man, and fellow believer!
This is a wonderful picture of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and Paul makes a very passionate and pursuasive appeal to Philemon, reminding him that it was because of him, Philemon became a believer and became free from sin and God’s judgement too! Paul earlier on had had the privilege to share the Gospel with Philemon and as a result, Philemon became a faithful follower!
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Philemon 1:17-21 –
Paul offers to repay whatever is been lost in the process, yet adds, “Not to mention, that you owe me your very self” (some translations say, “Your soul”)
There is also another story that depicts grace at work, in Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable of the Prodigal Son.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 –
Both Biblical narratives remind us of how gracious God is. Like the father in the second story, of Luke 15, we see a father who let the son leave, did not stop him, but waited long it seems for his son to come home and rejoiced when his son did. He ran to meet him even as he was in the distance.
In Isaiah 30, it says: Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
Isaiah chapter 30 starts by talking about a prodigal nation. A nation that was being rebellious toward God and forsaking Him for idols. Yet, as angry as God was at these people, he says in conclusion, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you” –gracious and good are often synonymous words in the Bible. Infact, the name John means “God is gracious” and “God is good”
Thus interesting that a Gospel is named, “John” who often refered to himself as “The disciple that Jesus loved” and he writes this because he knew God loved him- not to suggest he did not love the other ones, but John writes much about “Love” as we see also in 1 John the letter:
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:17-19
God’s love initiated our salvation, “For God demonstrated his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God is ready to welcome home to his heart all who turn in faith to Hin. Jesus Christ made it possible to be fully restored to God because God is full of love. He hates sin but loved the sinner to die in all our places so forgiveness was possible!