Monday, November 14, 2011

The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants 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 servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.

“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.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.  ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”   Luke 15:11-32

Which are you?  Are you the young son who decided that he needed to find himself and went looking in distant lands for fruits of his flesh not caring who he hurt?  Did you find yourself at hell’s door?  Did you turn your back on your Father?

Or are you the father, who is so overjoyed that his young son has returned in repentance, truly sorry for what he has done, and humbled by the experience?  Are you willing to put aside all the pain you suffered not knowing where he was or even more so, how he was?

Or are you the older brother?  Upset that he is welcomed back even though he messed up so badly, and not willing to forgive as easily as the Father who loves beyond understanding?  Are you jealous because you don’t get recognized when you always follow the rules, but someone who broke them all gets a party?

I believe there are times in my life (and probably will be more) that I have been in each place.  I have gone off on my own, following the desires of my flesh, against all better judgment, just to get into such a mess that I didn’t have the nerve or courage to come home.  I didn’t know what they would think of me, a miserable failure.  So I kept waiting until it was either do or die.  God, the Father, prevailed.  Even when I wasn’t saved, He took my hand and welcomed me home.  He forgave me when I didn’t deserve it.

I have been the father, forgiving and loving even when it wasn’t asked for.  I have found in myself that agape love that Jesus had for His own, and even for His enemies.  He loved them all as He loved Himself.  I feel rewarded and clean when I forgive.  The starting over is just such a glorious feeling!

I have also been the older brother, jealous and miserable because I was not recognized for doing good things all the time and yet watching while someone else who completely messed up gets rewarded!  This is because I didn’t understand that I didn’t need any special attention, I was doing what I was supposed to do.  But the young son realized the error of his ways and came back humbled, ready to become as a servant to his father.  He was ready to repent for his stupidity and sins.  He didn’t come back because he was hungry; he came back because he was sorry.  And his father was overjoyed and got him all cleaned up and threw a party for his return!

Shouldn’t we all be like that?  Not afraid to come home in humility, knowing that we are doing what is right, and what God placed in our heart?  Shouldn’t we bless and sing and celebrate when a lost one has been found?  Shouldn’t we be joyful when their heart has been made pure and they return?  Shouldn’t we put aside the condemnation and instead rejoice to the Lord for bringing them safely back?

For some of us, it is time to forgive.  For others, it is time to forget.  Don’t let the past rule the future.  Remember what Psalm 118:24 says, This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Emphasis mine)  So let us take today, and rejoice that we are alive and that the Lord saw fit to give us breath for another day!  Let us realize that when our prayers are answered, like the Father, we must not bring up the pain we went through or the wrong that was done to us; instead, let us see that our prayers have been answered and we are blessed to start anew! 

Ah, there’s something else!  How many of us have prayed so hard for our loved ones to return and then when our prayer was answered, complain?  Have we condemned them for leaving instead of rejoicing that they returned?  Are we truly acting as the father, who didn’t even let the young son finish apologizing before he embraced him?  He had already forgiven him.  The parable doesn’t say, but I imagine in his bitterness the older brother who, even though prayer is answered, immediately starts in with talk like, “What were you thinking?  Do you know how worried we were?  What makes you so special?  I had to do all the work, you owe me!”  

We need to not just forgive, but we need to forget.  As the young son, forget that we made stupid mistakes.  We shouldn’t live in the past and feel we aren’t worthy of coming home in humility.  If we truly are sorry, our actions will prove it.  As the father, we don’t need to do anything but love the son who returned.  Use God’s wisdom to carry you through the enemy’s lies and forgive with every ounce of our being.  Of course we were hurt, but what is more important?  Is it our pain at them leaving or our joy at their returning?  We should thank God that they are back in the fold.  The older brother needs to get over himself and be grateful that his younger brother is alive and well and willing to start over again.

God bless you, Dear Reader, and if you are struggling with forgiveness, allow God to help you.  Whether you are the young son, the father, or the older son, God is with you always.  He sees you, He will reward you!  Please share your thoughts.


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