Great come backs are inspiring. In every field there have been great come backs that caused people to take notice of what has happened. In politics, Bill Clinton has been called “The Come back kid”. He made a horribly long, boring speech at the Democratic Convention and people all over thought and declared that his political future was sealed when it came to national politics. But, four years later he gained the Democratic nomination for President and then won the general election that year and four years later.
In sports there have been multitudes of players who were hurt or had a bad year and people thought it was all over for them. But they came back a year or two later and had an extremely successful career.
In marriage I’ve seen many that were on the edge with both parties falling toward the ground, but they decided to try again. Often with the help of someone guiding them they not only rebuild the marriage but take it to new levels they never dreamed of reaching before.
In families children come back who have been out of favor with the family for years. The story Jesus told of the prodigal son has been lived by hundreds of other young people who left home and family believing it was the worst place in the whole world. But when they landed in the hog pen of life, their views of home had changed drastically and they came back home to be received with love and given a new opportunity to build new relationships and new attitudes.
When a person believes there is no way to ever come back and correct the mistakes they’ve made and be accepted back in fullness, they lose hope, which brings on dispair. Think of the prodigal son who had gone away from family and is now in the hog pen of life, who thinks of home and remembers a harsh, judgmental family who never offered a second chance to anyone. Often in such situations the person doesn’t decide to come home again but that even the hog pen is better than what they had at home. All motivation to change and be what we know we can be tends to be destroyed so that the person just keeps going from bad to worse.
One of the saddest plights I’ve seen is the soldier who left home and family to go fight for their country. In a different country, with different culture they lived in fear for their life every day. Many times they are wounded either physically or emotionally and when they do come home they never feel accepted or loved. Family wants the person to snap out of this whole despair thing and get a good job and help with responsibilities at home. But the soldier’s heart is still on foreign soil with a band of brothers they faced life and death with for day after long day for months at a time. Family looks on with a despair of their own. What can we do to help him? Why can’t he just be normal, be like he was before he left and get his mind off what all happened over there? What they usually don’t realize is that the one they are wondering about is also wondering even more than them why they can’t get their life to go back together.
One of Jesus’ greatest messages for us is that there is a way back. You can come home again and have a fresh start. It has been said that you can never go home again after you once have left. I understand the sentiment. It is true that things will never be the same as they were before we left since life doesn’t stay the same anywhere we are. But Jesus wanted us to understand that he readily takes people back to give them a new lease on life and start things over again.
His favorite story was of a shepherd who had 100 sheep and one became lost. He left the 99 and went searching for the one until he could find him. When he did find him, he put him on his own shoulders and joyfully brought him home again. He told every follower if they saw someone sin, they were to go to them first alone. If they were able to bring them back they had gained their brother. But if they won’t come back after the visit with them alone, don’t give up but take two or three others with you and go talk with him. If he comes back it will be great. If he doesn’t, take it to the church. If he still won’t come back then let him be to you as an unbeliever.
The apostle Paul wrote the Galatian Christians, “If a person is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a person gently, considering yourself because you also can be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and in doing so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2) James, the half brother of Jesus said, “Brethren, if any of you err from the truth and one converts him, let him know that he who converts a sinner from the error of his ways will save his soul from death and hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20).
I love the fact that Paul uses the word for putting a broken bone back into place when he said we are to “Restore” a person. One of the greatest truths of Christianity is you can change. It is a message that is often difficult to believe. We see things in our own lives that we can’t ever seem to change. We see in others that they often try to change things and find themselves going right back into their old habits. But to lose hope that one will ever be able to turn things around is one of the saddest things that can ever happen.
I’ve seen families say to their children when they get married that they can never come home again, meaning that they can never come back to be like it was before they got married. They are a new family now and they want them to know this isn’t a trial but a life choice and they can’t just decide one day that this isn’t working and come back home as though nothing has happened. I understand the sentiment and agree with the point. But it is a message that can go completely wrong. Our children need to know they can come home again when some things happen they could never have planned for. What if the daughter who has gotten married is being beaten and abused by her husband who for some reason has gone through a complete mental change in his life? What if you learn the man your daughter married is sexually abusing your grandchild? What if the child who has gotten married becomes ill and their husband or wife isn’t able to take care of them and provide for the family at the same time.
There are all kinds of circumstances that can occur when a godly family will need to send the clear message, there is a way home again. Perhaps more than anywhere else, the church needs to get the message out to people generally that you can come back and gain complete forgiveness from God and us and we will love you more than ever. How many times have you heard someone say that they once went to church but they had some problem and felt they just weren’t accepted any more so they quit going to church? The church isn’t a self-help group made up of peole that have their lives all together. It is an intensive care unit helping people who struggle with sin, doubt and failure to come back and with God’s help overcome.
Don’t try to dress up the hog pen to make it smell and look better. A hog pen is not a place for redecorating. It is a place to get out of and head home. God and his people will meet you on the way to help you get back home.