At Billy Graham’s funeral one of his daughters shared about a time when her father showed her what God’s love is like. She had gotten into a marriage her parents had warned her against. It turned out to be a disaster. She was ashamed and embarrassed as she drove to her parents’ home. As she got to the house her dad was standing out front. He came to her as she got out of the car and gave her a hug and said, “Welcome home.” There wasn’t condemnation or a judgmental “We told you so.” There was grace, love and forgiveness.
Her story reminded me of a time I received a welcome home. When I was an elementary-school-age kid, a friend and I were playing in the woods and lost track of time. As soon as we got in the door at his house his mom started yelling at us that we were late and she told me I better get home right away. I ran home, scared and feeling guilty. As soon as I got in the door I told my mom how sorry I was. I can still picture the smile on her face as she cut my apology short. She told me it was no problem. I was only a couple minutes late. Those things happen. “Let’s have pancakes.” I was thankful to live in a home where, instead of being yelled at, I was greeted with an invitation to have pancakes.
Jesus told the story of the prodigal son who squandered his father’s inheritance, made a mess of his life, and then finally came to his senses and headed home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). It’s the only time in the Bible God is described as running. He doesn’t run from things. He doesn’t run because He is late and in a hurry. He runs to greet His children and lovingly welcome them home.