We often approach God with preconceived ideas of how he will receive us. For example, if we have done something to grieve his heart, we may feel that he loves us but will be slow to forgive.

Jesus clears this up with the parable of the prodigal son. The story goes that the young man “arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 NKJV).

I believe the prodigal came home because of his history with his father. He knew his father’s character. He had been a much-loved son and was desperately hoping that he would not be upbraided or condemned for his sins if he returned.

Notice how the prodigal’s father received him in his pitiful condition. The young man was intent on offering a heartfelt confession to his dad. Yet when they came face to face, he didn’t even get a chance to fully confess. His father interrupted him by running up to him and embracing him.

The young man was only able to blurt out the beginning of his speech. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son’” (Luke 15:21).

His father didn’t even wait for him to finish. To him, his son’s sin had already been settled. The father’s only response was to issue orders to his servants. “Put a robe on my son, a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Prepare a feast! We are going to celebrate. Everyone rejoice! My son is home.” He knew his son’s heart. He knew he had fully repented.

Sin wasn’t the issue to this father. The only issue in his mind was love. He wanted his boy to know he was accepted even before he could utter a confession. That is the point God wants to make to us all. His love is greater than all of our sins. “The goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).