“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
(Luke 15:20 NIV)
Friend to Friend
Perhaps one of the most memorable and heart-touching stories of grace and forgiveness is recorded in Luke 15. It’s what we’ve come to know as the Story of the Prodigal Son. This young man demanded his inheritance while his father was still alive, spent it all on riotous living, and found himself dirty, destitute, and despairing. As despicable as pigs were to Jews, this young man took a job taking care of pigs and eating their food just to stay alive. But then he had an epiphany.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death. I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father” (Luke 15:17-20).
And where was his father? He was panning the horizon, hoping for a sign that his boy might return home. Don’t let the depth of that sentence pass you by. The father was PANNING the horizon. Looking. Waiting. Praying.
It is easy to think that God is dispassionately sitting on his throne just waiting for us to come groveling back to him. That’s not the picture Jesus paints at all. The father was panning the horizon. Searching. Pacing. Expectant. That’s how much your heavenly father loves you. There’s nothing passive about it.
While “he was still a long way off” (verse 20), the father spotted his son on the horizon. Filled with compassion, he picked up the edges of his robe and ran. He didn’t wait for his son to come to him, grovel at his feet, and beg for forgiveness. No, as soon as the father caught a glimpse of his son, he dashed toward his boy, smothered him with kisses, and welcomed him home.
If you remember, not everyone was happy when the prodigal son returned. His big brother resented the fact that he got another chance. And you know what? There will be those who resent the fact that we get another chance as well.
Beth Moore once said, “Big brother won’t mind if you come back as long as you hang your head and wear your shame. But when God has the audacity to give you a little dignity back and you dare lift your radiant face to heaven in liberated praise, big brother may be appalled!…It’s pride that can’t celebrate with a prodigal-come-home. Folks who won’t celebrate are still kidding themselves into thinking they did something right to be loved by their Father.”
I say, let him be appalled. Nothing makes some people angrier than grace. Big brother is invited to the party too, and it’s his decision whether or not he wants to join in the celebration. I’m just glad he’s not the one in charge.
Jesus was telling this story to a group of Pharisees while others also listened in. The typical question asked when telling this story is, are you the prodigal son or the big brother. But here’s where I want you to hang your hat today. Jesus loved both. The prodigal and the big brother. The sinner and the Pharisee. You and me. He pans the horizon looking for all to come to Him. And when we do He says: Let the party begin!
Heavenly Father, thank You for never giving up on me. Whether I’m acting like the wayward prodigal or the judgmental big brother, I know that You love me and long for me to take my place in Your loving arms. Father, I’m home.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Luke 15:11-32 in your Bible today.
What impresses you most about the Father’s reaction to his sons?
What is God saying to you from this story today?
More From the Girlfriends
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