A recent episode of the podcast Invisibilia covered how one small Danish town responded to young Muslim men leaving to join ISIS in Syria. Instead of condemning the young men and describing them as terrorists, two police officers declared that the men were welcome to come back—and when they returned, they would be connected to several resources that would help them reintegrate into Danish culture and feel more at home. Out of thirty-four boys who left the town, eighteen have come back and been reintegrated—as well as hundreds of others from the rest of Denmark (Hanna Rosin, “How a Danish Town Helped Young Muslims Turn Away from ISIS,” Shots(blog), NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/15/485900076/how-a-danish-town-helped-young-muslims-turn-away-from-isis). These Danish police officers “flipped the script” when it came to handling young men who were trying to join ISIS. They welcomed them when many would have rejected them, even knowing they were possibly involved with terrorist activity while in Syria. They extended a courageous and confident grace to them instead of punishing them. Our sin is not a mystery to God—he knows and sees it all. But because of Christ dying in our place, we are forgiven and can live in light of his marvelous grace. It’s never too late for us to come back home to God.
We might be afraid to repent because we fear God’s punishment, his anger, maybe even his “I told you so.” But God is gracious and merciful. Just like the father in this parable, our heavenly Father is waiting, hoping, looking for us to come to our senses and to come back toward him. And as soon as we do so, he will run to meet us with a warm welcome and with so much grace that he celebrates our return with great joy.