It is easy to become a Christian; it is difficult to live as a Christian. To begin, simply profess Jesus as
Lord and Savior, and then be baptized by someone, even a Jewish nurse if necessary.
We can see this playing out in the Prodigal Son. The kid demands his inheritance, then squanders
the money on wine, women and cards.
Waking up in the pig sty he realizes that his life is out of control, and he thinks he sees a way out if
only his father would take him on as a hired hand. While returning home he rehearses that he hopes not for forgiveness. He doesn’t think that is possible after the mess he has made.
But getting close to the house he sees his father running down the road to him. He probably thinks
his father doesn’t even want him near the house. But what happens? Does the father forgive him? Actually he doesn’t. The father doesn’t even allow the son to launch into his speech. And he doesn’t forgive him, but rather orders the fatted calf killed to provide the celebration.
The son has come home fearing judgement and instead he finds himself the occasion for a feast.
The father has never passed over to judgment. All he can do is hope his son returns.
So what about our sins and failures. If you are waiting for God to forgive you, you will wait a long
time. God doesn’t judge you; that’s what the Last Judgement is about: the end of judgment
conquered by mercy and love.
So why be baptized or go to confession? Yes, we are already forgiven. But if we don’t come home
will we hear that this mercy is meant for us, no matter what we have done or not done. And we won’t
be able to enjoy the fatted calf.
That’s how easy it is to become a Christian.
First admit your life is out of control. Then come to see that there is a way out of the catastrophy,
and make a decision to come home. Those happen to be the first three steps of Twelve Step groups.
The story is not over. Here’s the hard part. The elder brother shows how difficult it is to live as a
Christian. The next nine steps, spell out how to live a different life: the life of the beloved son. Many
of us freeze at the third step and never go on. And that is all right. God is patient. But whatever
happens, no matter how many times you screw up, the mercy, the love, the lack of judgement is still
there, only waiting for us to come home.