Focus: The difference between God’s love and man’s
Luke 15:24 (NKJV) For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells the story known as ‘the prodigal’. It goes like this: There was a man who had two sons. The youngest son said, “Father, give me the share of your estate that is my inheritance.” So the father divided his wealth between them. In only a few days, the younger son packed up all he had and traveled to a far country, where he squandered everything his father had given him in loose living. When all of his money was gone, a terrible famine hit that country, and the son had nothing. In desperation, he committed to work as a slave for one of the citizens, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He would gladly have eaten the food he was given to feed the pigs, but no one gave him anything.
One day he realized that many of his father’s hired servants had all the bread they wanted with some to spare, but he was starving with hunger! He decided to leave that place and go to his father. He would say to him, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and before you; I’m no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.” Having made that decision, he started his journey home. But while he was still at a distance, his father saw him coming. His heart was overwhelmed with love and pity. He ran to meet his son. When he reached him, he threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Hurry, bring the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let’s have a celebration meal, for this son of mine was dead, and now he is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they started celebrating without hesitation.
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As all this was happening, the older son was coming home from working in the field. As he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and saw dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. The servant told him, “Your brother has come home. Your father has killed the fatted calf because his son has come back to him safe and sound.” The older son was angry and refused to go in to the banquet. His father came out and tried to reason with him, but he said to his father, “Look at this situation. Think about how many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed what you told me to do; yet you never gave me even a young goat, so I could have a party with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has used up his inheritance with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” His father said to him, “Son, you have always been with me, and all I have is yours. It was only right to celebrate and be glad because your brother–who was the same as dead, is still alive; he was lost, and now he’s found.”
In the process of restoration, something you have to be prepared for is the kind of perspective displayed by the older brother in the story of the prodigal. It’s interesting how Jesus pointed out this situation in the story he told. Jesus confirms the father’s feelings about son’s return, regardless of the brother’s wrong attitude and remarks. He is careful to underline the father’s joy and the position he chooses to take concerning his lost son’s return.
The older brother represents the faithful Christians who never had to recover from the glaring error of public sin. He is also an example of how those who are closest to us will sometimes choose to stand in judgment when our sin has become common knowledge. The older brother presents himself as someone who never did anything wrong—yet he clearly didn’t grieve over the loss of his brother—or wish for his return like his father did. Jesus taught that anyone who said he loved God but hated his brother—didn’t really love God, either.
The love of the father in the story of the prodigal is just like the love of God toward any one of His children who has gone astray. A true father never stops loving his child and wishing for a loving relationship. The heart of God breaks when we make wrong choices and want nothing to do with Him, but the love of God never fails. The father of the prodigal watched the road every day—straining his eyes to see if any person coming down the road might possibly be his lost son. In the same way, God watches and waits for any wayward soul to turn to Him. He is quick to forgive and restore anyone who has a repentant heart. He can’t contain His joy when one who was lost is found. God stands ready to defend those who sinned in the sight of their ‘brothers and sisters’ and He holds no account of wrongs against anyone who turns from their wickedness and desires to ‘come home’.
There is no mention about a period of probation in the story of the prodigal—just the opposite. The father wants the celebration to begin immediately. He wants the son to experience full restoration with the best clothes, shoes on his feet, a ring of validation, and a banquet held in his behalf. That’s the way God feels, too. On the other hand, not all people display the kind of unfailing love God has for us. Sometimes, they will hold you at arms length if you have committed ‘certain sins’. Try not to be discouraged if you have to deal with that kind of treatment. Remember, your heavenly Father rejoices that you have come back to Him. He celebrates your return!
Declaration: I will find new strength by focusing on the unconditional love God has for me. If I feel ‘judged’ by people, I will remember they aren’t the ones who decide my future. I am clean before the Lord and I am His forever.
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