The Lost Son
In Luke 15:11-32 we find Jesus speaking in parables about things lost: a sheep, a coin, and a son. If you’re anything like me, the story of God’s work in your life sounds an awful lot like the lost son.
You learn early in the chapter that Jesus is speaking to more than the disciples. Tax collectors, sinners, and the scribes and Pharisees where also there. With this audience, Jesus offers parables to paint pictures of what God is like, and what they all are like.
The younger son wanted control of his own life, claimed his inheritance, and left to live independently. Thus began the slow decline to the pigsty. When he came to terms with the foolishness of his ways, he returned home expecting nothing and was welcomed, accepted, and loved.
The older son’s story is perhaps more tragic. He thought his works earned his father’s the love and inheritance. The pride and jealousy he carried blinded him from seeing reality. Pride stole him away from the fellowship he could have had with his father.
A Loving Father
The father in this story is remarkable to me. He was unafraid of letting the younger son leave. When the younger son returns, he has compassion, joy, and celebrates. When the older son reveals his frustration contempt, the father reminds him of the reality he is missing.
Many of us imagine God is angry, waiting for us to mess up so he can squash us! Yet that is not the picture Jesus paints of who God is. He is loving, compassionate, and forgiving, and he guides us away from pride toward reality — toward himself.
Relationship and Fellowship
We often take our inheritance, that is, the things God has so graciously given to us on this earth, and waste it away foolishly in a vain attempt to find joy, love, and contentment. Time and again, we find ourselves trusting in material things and are left wanting. We leave our fellowship with God. Once we “come to ourselves” we discover the truth of a loving God who awaits our return home where we have always belonged.
Others of us, like scribes and Pharisees, are trained and confident in our works. Yet, we mistakenly believe they will somehow merit God’s love or our relationship with him. We foolishly work to deserve something that is already ours, and miss out on the blessing of fellowship we could be having.
In the case of both brothers, the relationship never changes. That is, they are both always sons of the father. Yet, in contrast, the fellowship the sons had with the father was altered because of their actions.
What role are you playing? God loves you. Come home.