What was it about the prodigal son that took him back home when everything had gone wrong? He took five steps to get back to the family atmosphere of his father’s house.
First, he recognised the senselessness of his sinful condition. This can be hard. We fool ourselves that our sin is really quite harmless or maybe even just a bit of fun. Yet eventually the realisation comes upon us that what we are doing is not making us fuller people but simply stunting our development. We are brought short and forced to face the truth that the grass is in fact greener where we used to be.
Repentance is the second step. The awakening brought about by the hopelessness of our situation leads us to accept that we’ve been going in the wrong direction long enough and it’s time to turn around and go back.
It forces us to admit that we alone are responsible for the mess we are in; sin is our choice and nobody forces us. And what the prodigal son really wanted was not just some food but the restoration of his relationship with his father.
Repentance must always be accompanied by honesty. There’s no point in making excuses for what we have done. The son could have blamed the home situation, his father or his brother, the farmer who gave him a job with the pigs, etc. But the less we are found making excuses the more likely we are to be serious about changing our way of life.
When he repented the son displayed humility. He simply acknowledged that he had sinned, was sorry and did not deserve to be called a son any more. He knew he had disgraced his family and friends, accepted it and was determined to do something about it. He set no conditions to his confession.Then he made his resolution to go back home. He didn’t ask for time to consider things, procrastinate and put things off. He did something about it, left his sorry situation and determined to start things afresh.
Five steps. But the only ones that would take him back to the feast. And us?