By Ricky Chelette
“…his father saw him… and ran and embraced him and kissed him… But the father said to this servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a rung on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and lets 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 15:20b-24
Have you ever been celebrated by your father, really celebrated? Can you remember a time when your dad was so overjoyed in seeing you that he beamed with pride? If that ever happened to you, it was likely a red letter day in your life. There’s something about a father’s approval and blessing that is uniquely powerful.
If you remember the first part of the prodigal story, the son has asked for and received his inheritance. He has wasted his inheritance on wild living and sensual delights. Reaching the end of himself and realizing the err of his way, he now knows that what he had was better than anything he was seeking. He repents for his sin against God and against his loving father. While he was still a long way off his father, eagerly anticipating the return of his son, sees his son making his way home. The father’s response is instructive for us as we encounter those we love who have been in the far country. The father’s example gives us at least three responses to those who on their way home:
Love unconditionally. Notice that father doesn’t ask for his money back, doesn’t ask for an accounting of how/where it was spent, and doesn’t lecture the son on his irresponsibility. He simply runs to his son, embraces him, and kisses him. When we love like Jesus loves we rejoice when those in disobedience choose light over darkness and good over evil. The one that was lost had found his way home. This was not a time for lecture or conjecture. He was already aware of his sin. He had already been disciplined by his Heavenly Father and experienced consequences for his actions. Now was the time for love to be demonstrated through a hug and a kiss.
Forgive lavishly. Forgiveness is so powerful because it always costly to the one who forgives. The father instructs his servant to kill the fattened calf and prepare a feast. Though the son had taken a significant portion of wealth from his father and wasted it on irresponsible living, the father gives even more to put on a feast. Forgiveness costs. When Jesus demonstrated his love for sinful humanity He didn’t do it by posting a sign or overlooking a misstep, He gave up His very life.
Give praise to God. Celebrations always have purpose and focus. There is something to be celebrated and someone to be thanked. Though the text does not explicitly indicate the praise of God, the son’s realization that his sin was first “against heaven” and the father’s statement of his son being “lost and now found,” “dead and now alive,” would give us strong indication that Jesus was intending his audience to see this family as a family of faith. When God works miracles, people of faith respond with praise and worship to the Giver of good gifts! If you read between the lines you can almost hear the praises being sung, the prayers being offered, the miraculous deeds of God being gloriously recounted.
How are you at loving lavishly those who may have hurt you, taken something from you, or failed to live up to your expectations of them? Do you really love unconditionally or is your love based on others’ meeting your expectations?
Who is it that you need to forgive? Are you willing to pay the price or exact a price? Jesus says that we will only be forgiven to the degree that we have forgiven others (Matt. 6:14-15).
Who gets the credit when God does the impossible? Do you praise God and celebrate His goodness or do rush in to try to see how you made a difference?
The story of the prodigal is a story of all of our lives. We have all wandered from the Father, squandered our inheritance, and have experienced the consequences of our sin. But the glorious good news of the Gospel is our Heavenly Father is watching and waiting for our slightest turn toward home. He is waiting to run to us, embrace us, and love us. He has demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still in the far country, Jesus, His only Son, would die for us (Rom. 5:8). Our sin has exacted the greatest price of forgiveness upon Him – the sacrifice of His only Son. With such magnanimous grace and forgiveness lavished upon us, how can we do any less? How can we resist such a Father – such a Savior?