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 say this parable of the prodigal son is about a person coming to know Christ. Some say 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 for showing his brother grace. In his book, What is so Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancy says the parable is about the love the Father has for His children. The Father expressed His love through his grace toward the prodigal son, which is contrasted by the older brother’s graceless attitude. In context, the parable was told to the Pharisees and scribes who were disgruntled because Christ was spending time with publicans and sinners. Christ actually tells them three parables. One parable was 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 misplaced, and one we call the prodigal son, which is about the Father's joy in a rebellious son returning.

In this parable the younger son asked his father for his inheritance and went to another country where he squandered it on harlots and unrighteous living. He ended up destitute and went to work for a pig farmer who didn’t pay him enough to meet his most basic needs. When he reached a point that he was willing to eat the garbage pigs were eating, he realized his father's servants had it better than him. So, he made the long trek home, wearing the scent of his sin he practiced a speech. "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, hoping to see his son coming home. One day his father spotted him on the horizon and became overwhelmed with joy and compassion, causing him to do something men in his culture never did. He ran! He ran and embraced his pig-scented son, placing a kiss on his cheek which was a sign of deep respect. The son who had selfishly dishonored his family, was loved and treated with respect. According to Deuteronomy 21:18-21, a wayward son could have been stoned. Had the neighbors decided to carry out the law and stoned him, they would have also hit the father who was holding him. The father interrupted his son's well-rehearsed speech, ordering the servants to bring him a new robe, which symbolized his acceptance and cleansing. He ordered a ring, to signify his place in the family. He ordered shoes to symbolize the wealth he now possessed as a son. 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 to the religious leaders, Jesus continued the story, telling of the older brother’s reactions. The brother heard music and dancing coming from the house and ordered a servant to find out what the celebration was about. Instead of rejoicing over his brother’s return, the older brother became angry, refusing to go in to the banquet. When his father came out, the son angrily confronted him because he believed he had not sinned against his father and his father had not thrown a party for all the work he had done. The father reminded him, that he had had many days with his son and that everything he owned had always been his to enjoy. Christ used the parables to show the religious leaders that while some people sin outwardly, they were guilty of sinful judgments. This was sin they were failing to acknowledge. From the story, we see God's love being revealed through grace. The older brother, like the Pharisees, lived in a world of self-righteousness, rather than resting in 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. Perhaps it came from believing his brother had lived of life of fun, instead of the painful life of trying to fulfill a heart with worldly things. Or perhaps it came from a lazy heart that resented all the hard work he had been doing when his brother left. Regardless, had he understood his father’s love for him, he could have grieved with his father, prayed for his brother, and rejoiced as he returned. If he had truly understood his father’s love, he might have served his father out of love rather than obligation.

When reading this parable, it hit me that as we relate to God, His holiness will reveal even the sins of our hearts that no one knows. That should humble us. We need to make sure we aren’t so focused on others and their doings that we miss the depth of our own sin and miss the relationship and love God shows us through His grace. We each have the potential of being the big brother and the Pharisees who measured spirituality by “doing” rather than “being,” which can foster critical spirits that inhibit the flow of grace from our hearts to others.

To be honest, I've been in the position of each character in the story. As the prodigal, I have experienced times in which I have grieved and have 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 in 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 the Father is scanning the horizon, longing for our return. We are loved by a great big God-sized heart, yearning for us to come home so He can wash away the stink of our sin and 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 mercy triumphs over 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!

    ReplyDelete

Introduction

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!