While driving (I get to do a lot of driving) I recently listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg concerning the Prodigal Son as recorded in Luke 15. This prompted some thoughts so I stopped to record them. The thoughts have to do with the reaction of the father toward the son.
I am struck by the phrase, “while a long way off.” Jesus is telling us that the father did not wait for the son to come, the father ran to greet the wayward son. One of the right things about the missional movement is a recognition that the church cannot sit back and wait for people to come to hear the message. Christians must take the message to those who most desperately need to hear it. When we do this, we are emulating the Father that Jesus described to us.
The second observation is that when the Father did contact the son, there was no condemnation or criticism expressed. He was happy to have the relationship restored. The only emotion expressed by the Father is rejoicing at the return. Why then do so many who are outside of the church feel condemned by the church? We should be the very group of people who are most welcoming and most happy to see a relationship restored. Were we to do so, we would be emulating Jesus who left glory to come rescue us.
The third observation is that people matter than material things. By claiming his inheritance before the father’s death, the wild son put his father at a material disadvantage. Assets had to be liquidated to fulfill the request. All that was given to the son was wasted in excessive living.
Would the father be justified in requiring the son to work himself back into the father’s good grace? Would it be reasonable to make the son work to pay back what he wasted? From a human perspective, he would be completely justified in doing so. Yet this is not what the father does. The riches that were wasted seem to be nothing compared to the restored relationship.
This is a challenge to us as to how we view our posessions. I have been in churches where a spilled cup of coffee put leaders in a tizzy to make up rules about food and drink in the “sanctuary.” Are we more concerned about the beauty of our church campus than we are about the people around us? Are we willing to use our resources to reach out to those who need our love and message?
There is so much more that can be gleaned from this story. Jesus presents God as an unembarassed Father who exhibits a shocking devotion to his son. He displayed this behavior while looking to be restored to his son. He is a father that is willing to endure public ridicule for the sake of restoration with the lost son.
Should we not seek to emulate this father in this?