Monday, May 17, 2010

God Runs

"…Lets have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead 
and is alive again; he was lost and is found…"
-Luke 15:11-32

Some commentaries state that this parable about the prodigal son is about a person coming to know Christ. Some say that it is about a believer who walks away from God for a season and then returns to Him. Some say it is about the older brother who is upset with the Father at the end of the parable. In What is so Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey claims that the main point of the parable is about the love the Father has for His children. The Father expressed His love through his grace toward his prodigal son, which is then contrasted by the older brother’s graceless attitude. In the context that the parable was taught, the Pharisees and scribes were disgruntled because Christ was spending time with publicans and sinners. Christ responds to their attitude by telling them three parables. One parable about the joy a shepherd found in finding a sheep that was lost. one about a woman who had joy over finding a coin she lost, one we call the prodigal son, which is about the Father's joy in a son returning.

In this parable the younger son asked his father for his inheritance and went to another country where he squandered all of it on harlots and unrighteous living. He then went to work for a pig farmer who didn’t paid enough to meet his most basic needs. When he reached a point of wanting to eat the garbage the pigs were eating, he realized his father's servants had it better than he did. So, he made the long trek home. While traveling he practiced a speech on the way…"I am not worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants." Little did he know his father daily scanned the horizon in the hopes he would see him coming home. One day his father saw him on the horizon and was filled with joy and compassion and did something men in his culture never did. He ran and embraced his pig-scented son and placed a kiss, a sign of deep respect, on his cheek. The son who had selfishly dishonored his family, was show love and respect as he returned. According to Deuteronomy 21:18-21, a wayward son could have been stoned. Had the neighbors decided to stone him, they would have also hit the father who was holding him. The father interrupted the well-rehearsed speech by ordering the servants to bring him a new robe symbolizing his acceptance and cleansing. He ordered a ring, symbolizing his place in the family. He ordered shoes, symbolizing his wealth. Last, but not least, He ordered the servants to invite everyone to a big party symbolizing the forgiveness and joy that the Father was extending to His son.

To drive His point home, Jesus continued the story, telling of the brother’s reactions. He heard music and dancing coming from the house and called a servant to him to find out what the celebration was about. Instead of rejoicing over his brother’s return, the older brother became angry and refused to go in. When his father came out, the son confronted him. He was angry because he thought he had not sinned against him and his Father had never thrown a party on his behalf. The father reminded him that he had had many days with his son and that everything he owned has been his to enjoy. Christ was using this parable to show Israel that while some people sin outwardly, the Pharisees were guilty of sinful judgments, sin they never acknowledged. From the story, we see God's love revealed through grace, which is unmerited favor that paid a price. The older brother, like the Pharisees, had a system of self-righteousness, rather than loving grace. Perhaps his bitterness came from watching his father grieve when his brother left. Perhaps it came from a selfish heart that didn’t want to share the remaining wealth. Or perhaps it came from a lazy heart that resented all the hard work he had been doing. Regardless, had he understood his father’s love for him, he could have grieved with his father, prayed for his brother, and rejoiced when he returned. If he had truly understood his father’s love, he might have lived a life of love rather than obligation.

When reading this parable, it hit me that as we relate to God, His holiness will reveal the secret sins of our hearts and that should humble us. We need to make sure we aren’t caught up with what others are doing and miss the relationship and love God has for us. It is scary to realize we each have the potential of being like the big brother and the Pharisees who measured spirituality by “doing” rather than “being,” which fosters a critical spirit that inhibits the flow of grace from our hearts to others. To be honest, I have been in the position of each character in the story. As the prodigal, I have experienced time in which I have grieved and confessed sin that others wouldn’t let me live down. As the older brother, I have been unforgiving and held on to anger so I would not be hurt again. As the Father, I have been blessed by both my natural children and my spiritual children’s confessions and have been given the privilege of reminding them they are loved and forgiven, only to watch other’s snub them mercilessly. If we are close to the Father, we need to stay close so we won't become prodigals. If we are pig-smelling prodigals, we can be sure that God is scanning the horizon, longing for our return. We are loved and His heart is yearning for us to come home so He can clothe us with His grace. If we are Pharisees and not experiencing His love, all we have to do is rest at His feet and let Him pour His lavish love into our hearts. It never ceases to amaze me that God is the only one who has the right to judge, yet His loving mercy triumphs over His judgment and when that happens God runs!

Prayer: Father, thank you for the story of the prodigal. It shows us Your love through your mercy and grace. We are all prodigals at one time or another and in need of grace on a daily basis. Please help us to extend your grace and kindness to others who are trapped in their sin. It is your goodness that leads to repentance, not our critical hearts. Help us to realize how vulnerable the returning prodigals are so that we might be more loving and ready to welcome them home to the center of your will and your heart. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I love that..."God is scanning the horizon, waiting for our return". What a faithful father!



Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!