The God who runs
God loves to have a party. He has been known to host the best and biggest celebrations in heaven whenever a sinner turns around from following their own desires and decides to come home to God. Everyone is invited to celebrate.
Our parable today is not so much about the wayward children and their lack of respect towards their father, but rather a parable that teaches something about the amazing love of the father towards his sons. It also speaks to us today as the wayward children who have a loving God waiting for us to return to him.
The older and younger sons in the parable both suffer from the same sin as we all do today. They have taken their loving father for granted as we at times do of our parents, and many of us certainly take God for granted too. The father had provided for both of his sons all the things they needed for life and more. He had especially given them his love and care, and yet the family unit was falling apart. Problems in a relationship can develop when one is taken for granted. Such a relationship can degenerate and often taking an outward expression of a ‘master- servant’ relationship or in this case as rebellious children.
The root cause when taking people for granted stems directly from our inherent self-centred nature. Relationships are the first thing to suffer when our self centred nature gets the better of us. Self- centeredness demands the things for today and tomorrow as if they have earned it or have a right to it without any consideration of the other person. An outcome of self- centeredness is that it is easily offended and inflamed especially when it perceives a threat towards achieving its own goals.
At the time of Jesus, the custom was for the younger son to receive a third of the inheritance after the death of his father. It may have been through his self centred nature that he saw it as unfair that his brother should receive more. The younger son demanded to have his lot now and to do with it as he pleased.
Like the younger one, the older brother had plans for his inheritance too. He had worked hard on his father’s farm and felt he deserved every bit that was coming to him. He certainly did not want to share any of his lot when his younger brother had returned empty handed and looking like a beggar. He felt that it would be unfair to give his younger brother any more. It would mean that he would have less for himself as he initially hoped for.
Those attitudes of the past have always been with us and are clearly evident today. There are people who work hard all their life, saving for the good things of today and tomorrow. At times you can hear some of them say, “Why should my money go as a benefit to the unemployed who will only drink or smoke it away?” On the other hand there are some unemployed who feel they have a right to unemployment benefits because others have so much. We forget that all we have whether work or financial assistance from the government are all initially from the grace of God. He is the one who has given us these gifts. Without them we would have nothing.
Wherever and what ever the situation there always seems to be a sense of unfairness in life. Perhaps, this sense of unfairness is misplaced through our self centred nature. Perhaps it shows that we have treated God unfairly, by taking him for granted.
At times we all forget that God is the one who provides all the good things in life: our freedom, our daily food, work, family and friends, government and social services. Even though we continue in our own way being selfish, it is through God’s love and grace that he continues to give us good things again and again. Should we loose everything, perhaps a farm, a house, a car, a lifestyle, a church, even a child, we would feel cheated and angry that life is unfair. We would indeed feel as if we were lost and a long way from love and support.
Is there a condition of life that is worst than death? Perhaps the answer is; being lost. Lost in a sense can mean that a person is hopelessly away from a loving and caring family and friends. If we loose all the things we own and have no personal and close relationships, then indeed we are lost. A person could feel so alone and lost that contemplating suicide appears better than life. That’s a tragedy.
Furthermore, is there a condition of life that is better than just being a live? Perhaps the answer is; being found. Whatever a person is suffering in life, it is easier to endure when there is family and friends who care and are willing to share the burden. They are also there to help celebrate life everyday. They make life worth living.
Although family and friends can fail us at times, God is always there for us. He is always looking out for our return, to embrace us, to restore us as a beloved child of God, and to rejoice together at the reunion. Like the son who remembered the goodness of his father and returned home; we too need to remember God and his goodness, and he will come running to embrace our return with joy and celebration.
It is difficult to apologise. It is humiliating to discover that one has gone the wrong way in life, made a mistake, and now needs to apologise, explain, and make amends. Unlike us who like to savour every word of an apology and then linger in deathly silence to consider it, God through his love makes it easier for us to return to him by covering our humiliation and shame.
For a start, the loving father in the parable does not wait for the son to come to him. Neither does he wait for a lengthy and rehearsed apology from his returning son. He sees him coming in the distance and with joy runs out to greet him. In this way he brings honour again to his son. In the eyes of his neighbours, such behaviour of a man towards his disgraced son is disgraceful and unwarranted in itself. He has humiliated himself before others. The loving father has not only gone out eagerly to meet his returning son, but has willingly sacrificed himself to share in and to relieve the humiliation of the returning son. The father has made it easier for the son to come home, to be united again with the father and his household.
God our heavenly father continues to love all his children on earth. He has come to meet us. He has left his heavenly home to come as Jesus born at Bethlehem in a manger. He has come to eat with sinners, to heal and feed people even on the Sabbath Day. Above all, he has come to give of himself to a humiliating death on the cross amongst sinners. Jesus who is God has come to meet our pain and humiliation of sin, to cover our many sins. He has come to restore us in fellowship with him, to restore the broken relationship caused by our self centred nature. He has done all of this through his love and grace while we were yet lost and far removed form him.
Let us remember God and the love he has shown all of us through Jesus. He knows our sin and suffering for he has endured them as well. He has forgiven us and desires to embrace us again into his family. Let us remember him and there will be rejoicing in heaven and on earth over every sinner that turns from going their own way and back to God. Amen.