In all the blah, blah, blah of the week there was one phrase in a song that refused to leave my head.‘Mercy waits where sinners fall.’
‘Mercy waits where sinners fall.’
I know what you’re thinking. You can’t believe I just used the ‘S’ word. In our vernacular, the word “sinner” is almost as offensive as any other profanity you’d hear on your local primary school oval. Give this 1850’s word a chance to explain itself.
It simply means wrongdoer or offender. Ever done it? Ever driven 61 in a 60 zone? Told the kids “there’s no chocolate on the top shelf” or come home with an unscanned jar of jam in your shopping bag? Whatever, there’s a line separating perfection and whoops-a-daisy behaviour. Whether you live permanently outside the line and are running every day from the Feds, or briefly hop to the other side when telling your husband how much your dress cost, wrong has been done.
The point of being uncovered and exposed is the point of the ‘sinner’s fall’. That gut-sinking feeling when you pull the speeding ticket out of the letterbox is the painful part of the fall.
There is that famous idiot in the Bible who took his inheritance long before his father was thinking about passing to the next life. Rude! It was such an offensive deed which he followed up with countless squandering acts until there was no inheritance left. Not only did this kid treat his dad as if he was dead, but he also made a mockery of his legacy. The point comes where the son has no other path of survival open to him other than to return to the family farm and work. He’s gutsy enough to try it out.
His father had been waiting for this moment. Even in the retelling, I hold my breath for his response.
It’s outrageous compassion and unrestrained adoration.
I’ll just come clean and say that in our household, my response would be more along the lines of harsh consequences laced with a touch of revenge. Wouldn’t we all be feeling pretty good about our parenting strategies if we read about the father setting some firm boundaries while the rascal son earned back some trust?
Mercy! This guy deserved so much discipline yet received nothing of what he deserved. That’s mercy.
Mercy waits where the wrongdoer falls.
Mercy swoops in and holds hands with misdemeanour.
Mercy is gifted from someone in power to someone defenceless.
Mercy cites the backstory but gives it no authority.
The Prodigal Son isn’t even a true story. It’s a parable about God being like that father. The narrative hasn’t been put into our laps so we can substantiate we’ve never cheated our parents out of a large amount of cash. The scenario is painted so that we can identify with the offender. We’ve got the account, so we can be honest with our thoughts and confirm that we’re not as good as we want to be. We’ve stepped over a line, and we’re the offender.
Being a good person is not a standard God requires of us. He’s familiar with our inner thoughts and knows we have our blemished moments. He knows our flawed side, and He’s not waiting to unleash payback. He hasn’t even got his arms folded over a behaviour modification chart!
Snatch-and-grabbing from God the things we want, yet generally disregarding Him the rest of the time, is an impersonation of the son in this story. It’s a confronting way for us to relate to the character previously referred to as an idiot and rascal. If that pricks your spiritual skin and you think the Father is looking for opportunities to punish you, this parable from the mouth of Jesus explains you’ve got it all wrong. Not just ‘a bit off course’ wrong, completely back-to-front wrong.
He’s waiting. Eagerly waiting to have you back.
Eagerly waiting to have you back.