And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
(Luke 15:11-24, English Standard Version)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
(1 John 3:1, ESV)
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalm 103:10-14, ESV)
Today’s Reading: Luke 15
“Maybe we should call Coach,” someone blurted out. In hindsight, that would have been the responsible thing to do, but at age nineteen, I wouldn’t describe my friends or myself as responsible. Fun, yes. But certainly not responsible.
You see, we were running late to our game. To make matters worse, we still had to cross a border and drive another ninety minutes — through the middle of standstill traffic.
Beyond being responsible, calling Coach would have been the rational thing to do. Instead, my friends and I turned up the music like that would get us there faster.
We didn’t realize the seriousness of our inaction until after we had arrived during the fourth inning of a seven-inning baseball game. Somehow, we failed to recognize the gravity of the fact that our car contained three of the team’s key players: the starting pitcher, shortstop and center fielder. Our tardiness left our team severely shorthanded. For a coach who loves to win, this was a nightmare.
Racing to the dugout, we expected to be yelled at, maybe even suspended. But our coach didn’t yell. He didn’t acknowledge us directly at all. For the final three innings, we sat on the bench and listened to him say things to our teammates like, “Nice try. At least you arrived on time!” The indirect scolding was worse than anything we had imagined. We felt so ashamed.
I think back on this scene from the past and chuckle at my immaturity. But more importantly, I rejoice! I rejoice because the way God responds to my rebellion and negligence is so radically different from what I experienced with my coach!
Rather than embarrassing or disengaging from His children in their rebellion and failure, God is portrayed as a father who anxiously waits for his son’s return. And instead of feeling disgusted by all the son has squandered, you can imagine that the father’s heart skips a beat, with mixed relief and delight at the sight of his boy. In Jesus’ words, “His father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
What about you? Does the picture you paint of God more closely resemble the father in Jesus’ story or my coach?
Whether you have ignored your responsibility or have actively run away from God, Jesus’ message is clear: “You can come back home!” The Father is waiting for you. His shoes are already tied, and He’s ready to run to you at the first glimpse of your rolling in — even if you’re four innings late.
Respond and Pray
How does this passage challenge your view of the Father?
In what ways do you resemble the son in Jesus’ story? Take a breath and confess this to God, knowing that He’s celebrating your steps toward Him and that He’s excited to welcome you back home!