Imagine what it would be like to be held in God’s embrace. Take a moment and close your eyes. Now, imagine the Lord is there walking toward you. He reaches out with his arms and embraces you with a loving, welcoming hug. Maybe you normally don’t even like to be touched or hugged like that. Most teenagers don’t like to be hugged by their mom or dad or especially their pastor! But the Lord’s embrace melts away all your anxiety and fear. Most importantly, he melts away any feelings of insignificance. Many times in the Gospels we find Jesus touching people to heal them.
In Matthew 8, Jesus reaches out his hand and touches a man who has leprosy. In that same chapter he touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law who was in bed with a high fever. In the next chapter he enters the synagogue leader’s house whose daughter had just died. Jesus takes the dead girl by the hand and brings her back to life. In John 9 he heals a man born blind by spitting on the ground, making a little mud and putting it on the man’s eyes. In all these ways he showed his love. He showed his compassion for their physical and emotional pain. Father, Son and Holy Spirit speak into our soul with a loving, compassionate touch or embrace. Probably the most powerful and memorable example of this in Scripture is the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-20.
This story is so vivid, so filled with emotion. It’s a story we don’t forget because that Father’s embrace… speaks directly to our soul. The Father ran to his wayward son, embracing him with love and forgiveness. For the prodigal son, that embrace communicated welcome and acceptance back into the family. The father in the story knew his son had squandered his inheritance. The father knew about the wild living and party life his son had chosen. And I believe that somehow the father also knew that when it was all gone, when the inheritance was all spent and nothing was left, his son would return. And so he made sure to be waiting for him. The Father never disowned his son, or forgot him, or stopped looking for him to return. He longed to restore and renew their relationship.
Here’s the incredible truth that’s so hard for us to grasp: God longs to embrace us despite how we’ve spent our lives without him. Any reluctance to embrace the Lord is on our part – never on his part. What we fail to truly grasp – or at least have a hard time believing – is the extent to which God the Father has gone to reconcile us to himself. We still live with the two deep scars of sin: guilt & shame. Those two scars appeared when sin struck the very first man & woman – Adam & Eve – in the Garden of Eden. Because of their disobedience, they felt shame and guilt for the first time in their lives. They became aware they were naked. So they hid from the Lord. Those scars – Guilt & Shame – disfigure the way we view ourselves and our relationship with Father and Son. In our heart we believe we are not deserving of God’s embrace.And that is true – we don’t deserve it. Just like the prodigal son didn’t deserve it. And when we receive something we don’t deserve, you know what that’s called? That’s called grace! None of us deserve God’s grace, but he gives it anyway. You know why he shows us grace? It’s because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God can embrace me and embrace you because there is nothing preventing him from doing so. Jesus has seen to that.