The Resurrection Body

by Frances Young.

It’s funny how old long familiar things can take on new resonances. This Easter was a case in point. The set lectionary meant revisiting the Johannine story of Mary in the garden and the Risen Jesus’ insistence that she should not touch him. What struck me with fresh force, after recent months without hugs or handshakes, was how cruel that was. She had loved and lost, and the most natural thing in the world was to clasp the lost one to herself. And it was disallowed. Why?

Of course within the narrative of the Fourth Gospel it is possible to make exegetical sense of it. Jesus gives the reason: “I am not yet ascended to the Father.” He has not simply come back; things have not returned to “normal”; nothing will ever be the same again. Ancient and modern romances may have told of Jesus coming round in the cool of the tomb and starting a new married life with Mary Magdalen in Egypt, but the very idea is repudiated in this Gospel, whatever Mary might have desired. The message for the disciples is along the same lines: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” a word which surely signifies that there is to be a quite different relationship.

Yet the apparently contradictory invitation to Thomas to touch will guarantee that the Risen one really is Jesus – the flesh-and-blood now wounded teacher they had known and followed. The old debates about whether the resurrection was literal or spiritual are surely way off beam: the stories show it was mysteriously “both-and.” This was not a resuscitation but a transformation; nor was it a ghost but a spiritual body – to borrow Paul’s phrase for the utter paradox of this abnormal normal. And when he has ascended to the Father, his presence with them, his relationship with them, will indeed be real but different: bread and wine will communicate his presence and life, the Church will be his body on earth, and blessed will be those who have believed without seeing or touching. Yet the first Epistle of John will testify to hearing, seeing and touching “with our hands.” (I John 1.1) The incarnation is about physical contact and the creeds affirm the resurrection of the body.

The Church down the ages has found this difficult, preferring to think of the soul going to heaven. “I’m tired of this old body,” said my mother in her nineties …

And yet it is through our bodies, our physical senses, that we have our identity, that we interact with the world – through our bodies others recognise us, through our bodies we cement relationships with handshakes, hugs and kisses. Zoom just doesn’t do it! And the notional brain in a vat surely has no thoughts or feelings! We are constituted as psycho-somatic wholes – embodied souls, ensouled bodies – indivisible if we are to be genuinely human creatures, a point constantly emphasized by the orthodox thinkers of the early Church. Indeed, it was affirmation of creation, of the material, physical reality of earthly life, as good and as God’s, which distinguished early Christianity from most other ancient religions and philosophies, and despite the pull of the culture and the pressures of ascetic and celibate ideologies, leading Christian writers always recognised that incarnation demanded that affirmation, so also the sacraments, and resurrection too required real continuity between our whole selves here and our whole selves in any future beyond death – Augustine even speculated on the purpose of gender differences in heaven where there would no longer be procreation.

Mary was not to touch – not to cling to the past, not to try and possess the Jesus she had known: for everything was changed. But Thomas was invited to touch, to prove it really was Jesus, the Jesus they knew, the Jesus who had suffered and died – to recognise and know that physical reality. Perhaps our longing for handshakes and hugs can challenge our thinking, hard though it is to envisage what it means.

Maybe an analogy can help our puzzled pondering. Music is profoundly physical: nothing without airwaves and ears, vocal chords, mouths to sing or blow, fingers to pluck strings or play keys …  And yet it is perhaps one of the most spiritual things we experience. I was visiting my dying mother back in 2005 when the death of the Pope had just been announced. I mentioned it and added, “I expect there was rejoicing in heaven when he got there.” She drifted off. Some minutes later she opened her eyes and said, “The music was wonderful!”

19 thoughts on “The Resurrection Body”

  1. Yes!
    I find myself using ‘both / and’ increasingly in recent years.
    And – just a thought – wouldn’t a Roman flogging and crucifixion make an embrace too painful to bear?
    Divine suffering is eternal…….

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  2. One of the problems we have in trying to understand the nature of the resurrection is that we approach first century accounts through the lenses of early Christian creeds and medieval interpretations and then attempt to reconcile these with 21st century thinking. We don’t appreciate enough how readily and easily first century writers moved between, and wove together, the physical, metaphor and symbolism to convey their message and meaning. As a result, we find ourselves faced with apparent anomalies, paradoxes and contradictions. The stone has to be rolled from the tomb for Jesus to emerge, but the same body can suddenly appear within a locked room and disappear as it did at Emmaus. The body can be touched and can eat but Paul doesn’t apparently see any difference in nature between Jesus’ appearance to him and the appearances to the disciples.
    Coming shortly before the resurrection of Jesus, we have the account in Mt. 27: 52-53 of many dead people rising from their graves and then walking into the city, without any of this being seen as significant enough to be mentioned in the other gospels or any other writings of the time. Then after the resurrection appearances we have Luke’s account of the ascension, which now has to be read in the context of a universe which is 93 billion light years in diameter as opposed to the small three-tier biblical cosmos. How do we interpret those two accounts? Do we treat them differently from the accounts of the resurrection appearances?
    This all puts the focus on events two thousand years ago. Is ours an historical faith or is it a living faith, a dynamic faith which responds to the present situation? Perhaps we should be putting the emphasis on where Jesus is now. Is he reigning up in Heaven or is he active in the world now, where we can still have our own encounter with him? Or is that also a “both … and” experience?
    if Christian lives do not witness to the presence of a living God, attempts to prove who moved the stone 2,000 years ago and debates about the nature of Jesus’ post-resurrection and pre-ascension body have limited worth outside internal Christian discussions. Young people are only likely to respond to a faith when they can see lives being transformed and when love, peace, joy and striving for justice are evident in those who profess that faith.

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  3. Brilliant Pavel! For me the stories attached to the Cross and the Resurrection place conditions on the love of God and compromises the reality of a mortal God, living, suffering, vulnerable and exposed to death. (The powerlessness described by Paul in 1 Corinthians). There was nothing about power and goodness in the crucifixion. And yet Jesus in his life exhibited the amazing unconditional nature of the love of God and to find this unconditional love in life in our lives is to find the living Christ.

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    1. When you talk about “the stories attached to the cross and the resurrection”, I think you need to make a clear distinction between the biblical accounts (the stories themselves) and the differing theories and explanations that have been developed from them. There is a breadth of interpretation between some of the theories. Some of the most common theories, e.g. penal substitution, see the crucifixion as a transactional act, which God needed so that forgiveness could take place, whereas the Franciscan approach put forward by John Duns Scotus in the 13th century suggested that the cross is an unconditional reaching out in love by God and is focused on transformation.

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      1. This is something I struggled with for a long time, Pavel, but eventually I found a theory which made sense to me. A lot of Christians cannot read the creation story literally; they don’t believe there was a man called Adam and a woman called Eve, but they can accept that Adam and Eve represent the first human beings to have a relationship with God. And they can see that ‘the fall’ is simply an acknowledgement that human beings are not perfect. We all fall short of the Glory of God, and we need His gold standard of perfection to turn our faces towards, to desire for ourselves, and to try to keep moving in that direction, while accepting that we will never attain perfection in this life.
        So with the crucifixion. The guilty man, Barabbas, was set free and the innocent man, Jesus, was crucified in his place. Barabbas represents all of us, sinful though we are, being set free because Jesus went to the cross in our place. He was our representative, our scapegoat if you like. Just as Jesus cast Legion’s demons into the pigs and they jumped into the sea and drowned, leaving Legion cleansed and free, so we are set free from our demons (sin, hate, fear, whatever you want to call our fallen state) because Jesus took our sin on himself and died in our place. I hope this helps anyone else who is struggling with it.

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  4. To those who are hell-bent on secularising the Christian faith, what do you think will happen when you succeed in ridding the Church of the Bible and the cross? You are either very naive or seriously deluded if you think the rest of the world will play happily ever after. You only need to look at the situation in Jerusalem to see that can never happen. This is just the next step in a long process which began mid 20th century:
    1 abandonment of Christian morals leading to the permissive society
    2 decline in church attendance leading to church closures, corresponding with increased immigration and the opening of mosques
    3 watering down of Christian beliefs culminating in secularisation of the church
    4 Islamisation of the nation, resulting in control of the masses and oppression of women and the ‘infidel’.

    Just something to ponder on as you wage your social justice crusades and bask in your virtue-signalling glow of self-satisfaction.

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  5. Christian (Yvonne) . I disagree strongly with your rather bleak assessment of the “situation” we are in but accept that it is a point of view. However, it is completely unacceptable to attack Moslem people: It is racist Islamophobia and anathema to those Christians who try to obey the Second Commandment to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

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    1. I am not and never have attacked Muslims. I have some lovely Muslim friends. I am merely observing the evolution of religion in this country and predicting its outcome. Thankfully, I probably won’t be around long enough to see it happen. How are things going in Northwich, Robert? Are you still refusing to sing to the Lord?

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      1. Christian. It is I believe important to have voices defending what I believe you would call traditional Christianity. Much as I might wish you did that positively, you are of course entitled to attack other views. However, don’t you do your case a disservice with the intemperate language you use. Here your critique seems way off base, although perhaps you are using words to mean something rather different from what I understand by them. It is however, your conclusions that are most troubling.
        Obviously I hold very different views from you but I have seen nothing in any posts here that warrant the use of language like ‘hell-bent’, ‘(social justice) crusade’, and ‘bask in your virtue-signalling glow of self-satisfaction’. What is gained in saying such things?
        You speak of ‘secularising’; what do you mean? Consulting various definitions, the consensus seems to be secular means not pertaining to religion. What has been written here (on a theology site) clearly pertains to religion. The points at issue between you and the more liberal voices are about the nature of God and the consequent relationship between people and God and people and people. Perhaps you mean that the theology being discussed is a move away from formal religion. If so perhaps many would say Amen. There is a strong tradition within Christian thought that the nature of faith revealed in Christ is absolutely not about religion or being religious. I fear what you mean (as I am afraid I often think you mean) is that it is not the sort of religion you approve of.
        You go on to talk of ridding the Church of the Bible and the cross. Nearly all the posts you seem to object to have biblical references. Yes, sometimes these are critical (both in the technical sense and in the sense of being negative) but they are also often used affirmatively. There does not appear to be any desire to be rid of the Bible. Rather there is a desire to truly engage with it and with experience and reason (and I would certainly add tradition). Again I fear what you mean is to be rid of a particular conservative view of the Bible, which you hold. People must speak for themselves but I’m not sure there is any desire to deprive those who sincerely hold such a view from that view. Even in that incredibly limited sense there is no desire to rid the Church of the Bible. The phrase ‘the cross’ is widely used to refer to the redeeming power of the cross and possibly in your view to mean a very narrow understanding of that. However many (of which I am one) would use the phrase ‘the cross’ to refer to the greatest example of the self-giving vulnerable love that Pavel and Robert were referring to; I would not of course put words in their mouths however. So absolutely no desire to be rid of the cross.
        It is as I say you conclusions that are most troubling. In relation to 1., is it not at least arguable that a permissive society might owe more to Christian thought than one where rules are imposed (particularly where those rules are of the form of specks in eyes of others rather than the mote in my eye)? In relation to 3. see above.
        It is 2. and 4. that are most concerning. Do you think there is a causal connection between Church closure and immigration? I have not looked up the figures (and am not even sure if it is something that could be checked) but I would not be at all surprised if church attendance as a proportion is higher amongst first generation immigrants than it is among the general population. In any cases, that is rather beside the point. You seem to be suggesting immigration and by extension immigrants are a bad thing. One of the oldest and deepest Biblical ideas is welcoming the stranger in the land. Jesus’ mission although clearly to all is particularly to the marginalised and the outcast.
        You claim not to be Islamophobic or attacking Muslims, but it is hard to read your words in any other way. That may be my and other readers’ fault, but does that not give you some pause for thought that your words are read in that way?

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  6. Tim, you are reading into my words what you want to read.
    You clearly don’t like my views, just as I don’t like some of the views posted on here, but I have as much right to express them as you have. I have NEVER attacked Muslims and never will. If any of my family decided to become a Muslim I would not have a problem with it; I would be thankful that they had found a way to connect with Almighty God, whatever name they choose to call him.

    I merely observed that the decline in Christian beliefs in this country has co-incided with increased immigration and the building of mosques. I never said that was wrong or bad, did I? I was simply making an observation. I could be wrong in my prediction that we will become an Islamic nation, but it seems the obvious outcome to me. And though I don’t have a problem with anyone choosing to become a Muslim, I certainly wouldn’t want it forced on my descendants.

    You can deny it all you like; there is a definite move to secularise the church. One of the people you mention have actually said they want a ‘secular church.’ (Trawl back through the posts if you don’t believe me.)
    And if their mission is successful, then they need to accept that in the secular world people do not have any obligation to love others as they love themselves. Being inclusive and non-judgemental are values we expect of Christians; we can’t enforce them on those outside the faith. And they will use whatever language they want to use, whether you approve or you don’t! Those who want a secular church had better get used to it.

    Personally, I am a first commandment person. Making the second commandment your priority is too easy. Anyone with a shred of human decency can love others as they love themselves. The first commandment is the tough one, and the mark of a Christian. Love the Lord your God with all your heart. That’s the real challenge for those who think there is no higher authority than human beings.

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    1. Thank you that is very helpful.
      I don’t agree with some of your views, rather than disliking your views. What I dislike is the way you express them sometimes (or rather, often the way you attack the views of others). In this instance I did dislike what I understood you to be saying. I apologies that I read your words with my prejudice view of what I thought was being said. (I would not say I read what ‘I wanted to read’ in that what I understood it to be saying was not something I I would ever want to read- but I take your point). I wonder if you can see why one might misunderstand your meaning and be horrified by what was written?
      I’m still rather unclear what you mean by secularising the Church, although it is interesting and very relevant that that is also the term used by someone on the other side, so may be that’s my problem.

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  7. So we have established two things:

    1 you misunderstood my meaning because you didn’t take my words at face value. I addressed my original comment to ‘those who are hell-bent on secularising the Christian faith’ and Robert immediately responded, branding me ‘racist’ and ‘Islamaphobic’ when I am neither of these things. In recent years I have been involved in helping Syrian immigrants to learn to speak English.

    2 you don’t like the language I use. That’s fair enough, but again I was speaking to those who want to secularise the church; my language is very mild by secular standards and most people outside the church would not find it offensive. Indeed the terms SJW (social justice warrior) and ‘virtue-signalling’ have become part of everday parlance for those of us who have not succumbed to the charge of the woke brigade.

    The point I am making, Tim, is that if you don’t want the world to differentiate between the sacred and the secular, then you have to be able to withstand the opinions and the language of those who are not governed by Divine authority. Without the Bible and the cross, Jesus is just some random guy from Palestine who told his mates to be kind to each other more than 2000 years ago. Why should that impact on how people live their lives today? It’s just the equivalent of our primary school teacher telling us to play nicely.

    Without the Bible and the cross, Jesus is no longer the Prince of Peace; he is just the original Prince of Wokery. And we all know he has a serious contender for that title, don’t we? Except this one does not have a first commandment; he doesn’t even have any regard for the first amendment (freedom of speech.)

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    1. I am very sorry, but I do not except (that it has been established) that misunderstanding on my part was due to not taking your words at face value. I fear we are still a very long way from understanding one another. I did admit to and apologies for misunderstandings based on prejudice towards your views (or rather towards your expression of your counter views to those you disagree with – I don’t believe I am deluding myself when I say I think it is important Conservative voices are heard).
      I still contend that your use of the expressions “secularising of the Church”, (ridding the Church of) “The Bible” and “the cross” are not using words at there face value. I do add an important caveat, however, that particularly in the case of the first of these you are using an agreed expressions and I withdraw and apologies for any implication on my part that you may have been using it maliciously.
      I suspect it is not those words that you are talking about however when you think of my failure to take you words at face value; I suspect it is those in your numbered conclusions. I do admit that those words taken in isolation (although I find them bizarre, certainly without your latter explanation) do not warrant a negative value judgement. However they do not exist in isolation. The preceding paragraph makes the claim that there are consequences for “secularising the Church” (as that is understood) and at least by implication you consider those consequences as undesirable. You then explicitly point to a sense of progression. Is it not therefore reasonable for a neutral reader (let alone one who is already prejudice against you) to assume your numbered comments are a progression from good to bad?

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    2. I’m afraid I still do not understand your use of language, despite what you say here and your previous kind attempts to explain.

      In terms of the strength of language I appreciate that it is considerably milder than in other places (and I suspect you have suffered far worse personally) but not withstanding your point about needing to be robust in a ‘secular world’, I still don’t really understand why you employ it here. Isn’t there a danger it weakens your argument (or at least means the actual argument is not heard)? The terms ‘hell-bent’ and ‘crusade’ seem to suggest that there is a deliberate plan to have negative consequences. I may of course be misunderstanding that and I may have missed posts that would support that idea but I have seen nothing in posts here to support such a suggestion.

      I came to the term ‘woke’ very late and do not really understand its positive connotations, let alone its negative. I wonder are any of the following what you are getting at?

      1. In the Christian context many would wish to stress that there is more to life than just a loving attitude. How do we get from there to actually opposing a loving attitude (or have I missed the point)? I know there are those ‘who self identify as Christian’, to use a phrase they would not appreciate, who actually advocate hatred, but I’m fairly certain that is not what you have in mind.

      2. Is it the limited range of issues that are considered to be woke and perhaps a concern about who decides?

      3. Is the perception that there is a compulsion to be woke?

      4. Is it the suggestion that it is somehow not real, it is just a front of “expected attitudes” when in reality people couldn’t care less about the real concerns?

      5. Is it that it is sometimes associated with hate towards those perceived to be responsible for oppression or towards those who disagree or even towards those who don’t agree strongly enough?

      I don’t really understand ‘social justice worrier’ or ‘virtual signalling’ either, although these are obviously related to the above. Maybe it is that lack of understanding (or that I have missed significant posts) but I have not seen posts here that would seem to justify these accusations. (I am at least right in seeing them as accusations, am I?)

      Your last paragraph (in the post I am now replying to) makes very little sense to me, sorry. Perhaps it is some subconscious act to deliberately not understand, or may be I’m just a bit thick in this context. In relation to free speech, there are certainly serious concerns but I find it hard to sympathise with those who have traditionally been over represented now complaining to their large number of twitter followers or their thousands of listeners (or even on the floor of a national legislator), that they are being cancelled.

      Once again in seeking to understand what you are saying I have taken us some considerable distance from the original article. Apologies to all concerned.

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      1. Simplicity and clarity have always been my strong points (though I do have many weaknesses, I will be quick to admit!) I find very long, drawn out debates quite draining and unnecessary. I simply observe things and say it as I see it. I accept that others can and do differ as we all come from a different ‘frame of reference’ (my counsellor’s favourite phrase!) Traditional Christians have long been seen as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and the liberals and progressives were the vehicles of change. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just that I think the pendulum has swung too far their way. The woke folk have a very firm grip on it and are trying to force us all in that direction, not just in the church but in all walks of life.
        I will give one more metaphor and then I’m done with this. When a new baby comes into the family the new life is welcomed and celebrated by all. They are raised and nurtured in love (hopefully) by all generations of that family. They will be raised very differently to the way their grandparents were raised, but they are taught to respect their grandparents’ values and traditions, even if they don’t understand or agree with them. They love Granny and Grandad, their old-fashioned house and their old-fashioned clothes. The young folk might find their old-fashioned music and their stories of the past boring, but they can see that they are what made Granny and Grandpa the people they have become, with their own special gifts and skills to offer.
        We don’t ‘cancel’ our grandparents. We love them and all that they stand for. We might encourage change so they can function in the modern world, but we don’t force change where it isn’t welcome. I’m sorry if I haven’t made myself clear but I hope it helps in some small way.
        Yours in Christ xx

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  8. Pavel. Moving on with the discussion about “the stories attached to the cross and the resurrection” I tend to the opinion that there is no distinction between “the stories themselves and the differing theories and explanations that have been developed from them” – and that it is interpretation all the way. I suppose I am wary of the idea that the biblical accounts are ultimate literal truths that have been “faxed down to us by God”, as someone once said; an idea that brings up all sorts of problems about inconsistencies, as you pointed out. Thanks for the reference to John Duns Scotus and the unconditional love of God. Not sure what he means by univocity of being. the formal distinction and haecceity, but unconditionality and the transformational nature of the cross are deeply meaningful to me.
    For me the meaning of the cross is certainly nothing to do with the idea of sacrifice: The pagan idea that it needed a sacrifice to appease a god who supposedly thought the death of Jesus was necessary to redeem mankind from their sinfulness! And it was certainly not docetism, where the suffering and weakness are just appearances behind which there was power.
    I find my meaning of the cross, as Paul did in Corinthians, in the utter powerlessness of Jesus on that cross. This was anarchic, unconditional love that can actually transform lives. For me the amazing thing is that this love surrounds us, it is evident in a mother’s unconditional love for her children, the unconditional responsive love displayed by many nurses, ministers and others we meet and the unconditional non-judgmental positive regard of the counsellor that can bring healing to troubled souls. Unconditional love recognises the human person as they are, It does not judge, is freely given, and is utterly inclusive of all humanity. In discussions over the years I find that some people, generally male, are appalled by this idea. I have been told that without conditions on God’s love there would be no restraints on human behaviour – anything goes. Others attack from the other side and suggest unconditionality implies a Christianity of otherworldliness, piety and self-righteousness. Others say I am an atheist!
    Some words have unconditionality implicit in their meaning: Words like love, hope, peace and courage. We cannot half-love someone or have half-peace. For me there is something absolute and divine in the meaning attached to these words. They deconstruct the dualities that divide and alienate people and describe the unconditional inclusive and non-judgemental love of God for all humanity The love that we should aspire to.

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  9. You sound like an atheist to me, Robert!
    In your secular church the Bible would have no authority, so whatever meaning the cross has for you would be irrelevant. You can’t have church without the Bible and the cross. You would just have a group of people who would be under no obligation to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ or ‘love your neighbour’ or ‘love your enemy’ or ‘welcome strangers’ or ‘feed the hungry’ or ‘heal the sick’, all of which were instructions from Jesus acting on the authority of his Father.
    Of course, people can and do all these things out of the goodness of their own hearts and with no religious beliefs whatsoever, so why not just join them in the secular world and leave church for those who truly do believe in a Trinitarian God and want to show their love for Him by singing songs of praise and thanksgiving?
    Why do you want to deny others that which you clearly don’t believe in? That’s a bit like joining a golf club and trying to stop people playing golf!

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  10. Pavel, More to say – as there always is! It is about the implications of God’s unconditional love and how we respond to it. Can we make a clear distinction between motivation and practice? Our motivation is clear, it is the love we seek to extend to our neighbour and it is, or should be, unconditional and therefore inclusive and non-judgmental. In practice we judge people who transgress human rights, treat us badly or break the law, so this love for our neighbour is conditional. As I see it this distinction is reflected in the difference between spirituality and religion or between faith and belief. Our spirituality and faith motivate us to love others unconditionally: To aspire to the universal ethical spirituality, the living Christ, within which we live, move and have our being. Our religion or belief system generally depends on secular concerns such as social upbringing, where we live, our life experiences and the culture we live in. I suggest we need both motivation and practice to live authentically.
    Over the years I have asked preachers and ministers the question: Is God’s love conditional or unconditional? I have even avoided services I know will be offensive and have invited friends to attend after looking at the plan. It would be really interesting to do a survey that asks the contributors to Theology Everywhere the same question.
    I have questions!
    1. Jesus said somewhere “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. Was this to make the distinction between motivation and practice?
    2. As I wrote earlier some words are absolute and have unconditional meaning. Do these words offer a criterion for identifying acceptable, as distinct from theological concepts that can be harmful to our wellbeing like sin, guilt and condemnation?
    3. Have a missed something?

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    1. Unconditional love and forgiveness don’t mean that our actions have no consequences. Forgiveness isn’t the same as letting someone off punishment. The parents of a boy blown up by terrorists and a teenager killed by a gang publicly forgave the murderers but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t want them put into prison to protect society. Someone who’s been abused can forgive without allowing the perpetrator back where he could hurt them, or someone else, again.

      Let me give an example. A teenager gets upset, because his father won’t allow him to go somewhere with his friends. As the boy stomps about, he breaks a precious memento and then storms off up to his room, shouting, “I hate you. You never let me do anything.” The father may initially be angry but if he’s a loving father, his love will soon overcome his anger. He’ll forgive the boy while the boy is still sulking up in his room. So forgiveness is in place. But reconciliation can’t take place until the boy realises that his father is only trying to protect him, comes down and apologises. If that’s too difficult for the boy, the father might have to take the initiative. But reconciliation can’t take place until the boy responds.

      It’s worth noting that reconciliation will restore relationships, but the memento will still be broken. Maybe the boy will have to pay for it as part of learning that deeds have consequences. The prodigal son is welcomed back into the family but he has still spent his inheritance. A father who becomes abusive in a drunken rage may well lose his family, however sorry he is afterwards. God’s forgiveness is available, and we can be reconciled with him, but we have to move on from where we find ourselves; we can’t turn the clock back. Forgiveness and reconciliation don’t change the past, but they certainly make a huge difference to the present and the future.

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