“…Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
— Luke 15:23-24

I wish I remembered my grandfather, George. By all accounts, he was a great man — giving, faithful and just. The story goes that, every Christmas, he and my grandmother, Isabel, wanted to spend precisely the same amount of money on gifts for their two daughters. Fairness was so important that if either daughter had been short-changed, they would give cash to her to even things out. My mom told me that Grampa loved the Bible, but given his preference for equity, he had a lot of trouble with the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). He thought it wasn’t fair that the “bad” son got to leave home, squander his inheritance and betray his family, but was still welcomed back, while the “good” son, who stayed home and worked, got short-changed. The fact is, it isn’t fair at all — and I’m so very grateful. The parable of the lost son is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. It conveys a central message of the gospel: our God desperately wants each and every one of his children to come home, and he died to make it so.

Most of us don’t really understand God’s approach to our lives. We, like my grandfather, think life should be fair. We like to see people get what they deserve. But as prophesied by Isaiah:

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
— Isaiah 55:9

God is not like us! The truth is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In reality, we are all lost children and don’t deserve God’s mercy, but we are being called home just as we are. We see this truth throughout Scripture. The Father is making a way for his children to come home.

“Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
— Isaiah 55:7

Jesus’ radically unfair message to the lost — to all of us — is this: “Run home! You will find a Father who is merciful, who loves you and wants to throw you a welcome home party! You are not too good to need him; you are never too far gone to be embraced. Come as you are. He loves you and wants you to come home.”