In so much of our lives, we are called to negotiate our position. We tell people what we will give in order to receive something. We are careful to define what we will do and what we expect. After all, to not do so is to put yourself at risk in a fallen world.
But when it comes to salvation, we need to remember that negotiation has nothing to do with the process, and this is very good news. Coming to Jesus is total surrender to God and his authority.
I thought of this principle while reading through the parable of the lost son (some call him the prodigal son). The story is that of a man’s son who leaves home, blows his inheritance on evil living, and finds himself broke and alone. The son realizes that his dad treats his hired hands better than the son is living at present, so he determines to go home to his dad and negotiate a settlement, asking the dad to just give him a job on the farm.
Luke 15:17-19 – 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’
What is interesting here is what happens next. The young man goes home, ready with his speech. He is rightly humbled and repentant. He knows himself to be unworthy and is asking for grace alone. He is willing to be a mere servant in his father’s household.
But when the young man gets home, his dad runs to meet him. The young man starts to give his speech. But his dad cuts him off before he can finish. Once the young man returns in repentance seeking mercy, the dad will not at all allow him to negotiate his position. Instead, the father restores his son to the family. He throws a party. He tells everyone that his lost son has now come home.
Jesus intends this as a parable of the gospel. We do not, when we come to God, have any right to negotiate our position. We do not tell God we will give this if he will allow that. Instead, we come like the son. WE come repentant. We come knowing that we are guilty and unworthy. We come ready to fully submit to whatever our Father demands.
But the Father, for his part, welcomes us. God treats us, not as slaves but as sons and daughters. God will not make divisions in his family for the worthy, the less worthy, and the barely included. Instead, God forgives repentant sinners in Christ and elevates us all to the level of his very own children.
We want to remember two things here. First, we want to remember that we cannot negotiate with God regarding what we will hold back from him. If we come to him, we come to him completely, yielding our entire lives to him. But we also do not negotiate our position in the family. God adopts into his family all who trust in Jesus and turn from sin to surrender in faith.