Last night we listened to the story of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11). What a great story to revisit as we begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy! We heard from someone who has been in the shoes of the second son; the son who took his inheritance, squandered it, and returned home in need of mercy. The truth is, most of us have been there too. We all need forgiveness from time to time whether it's from God, a friend, a family member, or all three. One of the best parts of receiving forgiveness is the experience of joy that follows. We hear in the story that the father had the fattened calf killed, and they celebrated saying, "This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." What joy and relief this son must have experienced. This same joy awaits each of us in Reconciliation.
We also visited another story from Jesus that isn't as popular or easy to hear, The Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21). We hear in this story an echo of that part of the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We were challenged to write a letter to someone we need to forgive, seal it in an envelope, and keep it somewhere prominent to remind us of our call to be merciful. This was hard. For me, giving forgiveness is often more difficult than receiving it, and there are people in my life that I need to forgive. What about you? Is there anyone you need to forgive?
Last night at Life Night we identified qualities of a good friend and qualities of a bad friend. On the good list we found Loyalty, Honesty, and Prayer. On the bad list; Manipulation, Hypocrisy, and Negligence. We discussed the moments in our lives when we have experienced good friendships, and the moments when we have been a good friend. We also discussed the moments in our lives that we have experienced bad friendships, and the moments when we have been a bad friend.
Our lives are full of relationships, and the reality is, relationships are difficult sometimes. It's inevitable. We are going to be surprised with random acts of kindness. We are going to be comforted by someone in our moments of vulnerability or sadness. We too, at times, are going to be vessels of kindness and comfort. Unfortunately though, we will also experience moments of disappointment. Those who we think will always be there for us will let us down from time to time. Some of you have probably experienced this much more than you'd like. We too, at times, will disappoint or hurt someone. So what do we do?