What does it mean to live?
Imagine, if you will, that you are a thief, and more than that, a repeat offender. Since leaving home you have committed so many crimes that it was inevitable that you would eventually be caught and be sentenced by a judge. You know that you deserve to be incarcerated and locked up in prison for a long, long time but the most awful part of the situation is that the judge is your father. You have not seen him for a long time and you dread standing before him; the guilt; the humiliation; the shame of not living up to being the child he longed for you to be.
Judgement day comes, and as you stand in the dock, red faced and with your eyes cast down low, the judge, your father, reads out the charge, however, before he slams down his gavel and pronounces his verdict, a woman rises from the benches, walks to the dock, and opens it. You look up and there, standing before you is your mother. She reaches out, takes your hand and leads you out of the dock. She looks you in the eyes with such love and compassion and you glance over to the bench where your father sits; he too has the same look in his eyes.
Your mother gives your hand a squeeze, lets go of you, then walks into the dock and closes the door behind her. She looks at her tear-filled husband and nods, then your father solemnly brings down the gavel and, for your crimes, sentences her to life imprisonment. The sentence is so severe that it not only covers any crimes you have committed but any you would commit in the future. Struck dumb, and not fully comprehending, you watch as the police guards lead her away to the cells before the court rises, and your father exits.
It all happened so quickly that you can hardly take in what has happened and you begin to sob, a deep, heartfelt sob as you exit the courtroom and onto the street. You feel distraught at what you have done, the injustice of it all, and how your family — your own mother — has to suffer because of you. As you begin to think that you can no longer look at yourself in the mirror and that life is no longer worth living, you feel a familiar hand rest gently on your shoulder. You look up and it is your mother standing before you. She is smiling and she looks more alive and at peace than you could possibly imagine. Confused, you begin to stammer, asking how and why, then she tells you that the prison could not hold her because she was innocent, for no sooner had she been led to the cells than she was set free. She wraps an arm around you and warmly asks you to come home, that your Father is waiting for you, and they have so much to offer you.
Stop the clock and hold it right there. In that moment, in that place, my question is, what is your response? How do you feel?
It seems you have two options. Firstly, you can spurn the love shown by your parents, sever the connection, be independent, and go back to your old life of thieving ( after all, they’ve got your back). Secondly, you can honour their love, make a decision to go a different path, accept the invite, do your best, and re-establish a relationship with them. Which will it be?
Paraphrasing from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome: My mother was released from prison, she cannot be sentenced again, and the system cannot hold her. Yes, when she was sentenced, all my crimes were paid for — not just my past crimes — but all of them for all time. She was released and able to be with her husband. Through her giving of herself, I should see myself as being sentenced for my crimes and that, like her, I am now free to start again with my father.
When we turn to Jesus and accept his sacrificial love, our new life begins in the here and now. We were dead, but now we are alive.
Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome writes:
Christ was raised from death.
And we know that he cannot die again.
Death has no power over him now.
Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin
one time and enough for all time.
He now has a new life, and his new life is with God
In the same way, we should see ourselves
as being dead to the power of sin
and alive with God through Christ Jesus.