How are past tragedies redeemed?

By Daniel Arter

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” –Luke 15:20

In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we see a young man eager to live a life separate from his father and the man rejects his relationship with his father in order to gain his inheritance early. We read that he wastes his inheritance on “riotous living” and he finds himself doing whatever it takes to survive, even eating from the troughs of pigs. This is when he realizes what he’s lost and makes the decision to return to his father’s home in the hope that his father would pity him and hire him as a servant.

Most of us at some point can point to a time where we have lived a “riotous life” of sorts. Whether we’ve lived a life of indulgence in sin or we’ve simply had a time of life that we would rather forget, we’ve all had a time where we’ve sought happiness and pleasure in temporal things. Sometimes it takes a major disaster or sometimes it simply takes reflective thinking when we’ve realized just how low we’ve come. We may not have found ourselves seeking sustenance in the trough of a farm animal, but we may have found ourselves looking for gratification in a bottle, through a needle, or in interpersonal relationships and it is in those moments (the moments we realize the vanity of seeking pleasure in worldly things) when we start looking for a way out.

The prodigal son found his way out of pain by returning to his father. He assumed that his father may be willing to hire him as a servant, but to his surprise “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (15:20b), the father threw the prodigal son a celebratory party, and the father restores his son into a right relationship with him.

Just like the son in Luke 15, we have a Father waiting for us to come to Him and though He is a loving and good God, He will allow us to continue in our riotous living for as long as we want while constantly reminding us of His presence through His creation (Romans 1:19-20) in hope that we would turn from our sin and come to Him. We have a Father that shows His love for us by shedding obscene amounts of grace and mercy towards us (Ephesians 1:7-8). He longs to throw each one of us a celebratory party welcoming us into the Kingdom of God and He longs for us to stop living in the mires of our sinful past to seek Him and serve Him. Our past is redeemed when we depend wholly on Him, seek Him, and seek to serve Him, because of the substitutionary atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. And the only thing that we can do is to respond appropriately to His offer of salvation. We reject the sinfulness of our past and we start a lifetime race to reach the presence of our Lord and Savior.

Occasionally, while running that race we trip. The Apostle Peter was fully convinced that he was “all-in” for Jesus, but still denied Christ before His crucifixion. Can you imagine the anguish that Peter would have felt? After leaving his former life, following Christ for three years, witnessing miracles, and being confident in his loyalty towards Christ he still denies that he even knows Him. After the resurrection in John 21:15-19, Jesus asks Peter a question multiple times, He says, “Peter, do you love me?” And while we could get caught up in the semantics of the Greek word used there for “love," Christ asks if Peter agape’s him (loves Him unconditionally) and Peter reminds Him that He phileo’s Him (loves Him like a brother), but I think to do so misses the ultimate point of the passage. Jesus knows that Peter doesn’t love Him quite the way He’s asking him to and obviously, Jesus knows that Peter denied Him, but instead of seeking to punish Peter in any way, Jesus redeems Peter’s past and tells him to get back into ministry.

Jesus is seeking to redeem the past of every person and we at Griggs seek to help in that process, because every person has a past and every person’s past can be redeemed.

Daniel Arter serves as a ministry associate at Griggs, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Christian Ministries. You can learn more about him at