Sunday, 21 April 2019

God’s forgiving love is for all of us

MANY of us will have been following the case of Shamima Begum and whether she should be allowed to return to the UK.

We will each make assessments around the Home Secretary’s decision to revoke the Islamic State bride’s British citizenship.

Last week, Tom Wright, the renowned New Testament scholar, theologian and former Bishop of Durham responded to the discussion in a letter to The Times: “As a Christian, I cannot help reflecting that if Jesus had thought like that [to exclude Begum permanently] he would never have told the parable of the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32), which neatly marks out his teaching from Islam and from the cold logic of secularism.”

The parable Jesus told links in some ways to Begum’s story and makes me pause for thought. It told the prodigal son’s story.

 First, he was sick of home. His request “Father, give me my share of the estate” was in short saying “I wish you were dead”.

He goes off in to a far country and squanders all he has been given in wild living.

Secondly, he was homesick. His life had become a famine with no food, human isolation with only pigs as companions, no money, living as a slave and not even allowed pig food to eat.

As his own emptiness was painfully forced in on him, he came to his senses.

A key question in Shamima Begum’s case has been whether she is at all remorseful or repentant about her actions.

Thirdly, he came home. The waiting father “saw him and while he was still a long way off” and “saw him and was filled with compassion and ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him”.

Jesus gives us a picture of how the Lord God is ready to welcome us home. Whatever we have done or wherever we have been we can return to him. Search and rescue is at the core of the character of God’s inexhaustible love.

As Begum’s situation develops, there are both similarities and differences with the parable of the prodigal son but I am made to recall God’s gracious and forgiving love available to each one of us.

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