Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lost Sons and the Loving Father

Last night at HUB, we did part two of God's radical love and pursuit of our hearts. We looked again at Luke 15 and the two camps of people. Notorious sinners v. Pharisees. Jesus was spending time, eating meals, and befriending "tax collectors and sinners" to the disgust of the Pharisees. Both groups need grace. Both groups are sinners. One of my RUF campus ministers at Furman would always say: "You're never so bad that you stand outside of God's grace, and you're never so good that you don't stand in need of God's grace." The notorious sinners feel that they don't deserve God's love and grace - but you're never too far away. The Pharisees feel that they have done enough good things to earn God's love and grace - but see grace is a free gift, you can't earn it. So, Jesus tells them three parables. Last week we talked about the first one: The Lost Sheep. Then he goes on to tell about a lost coin, and finally we end with the most detailed and gripping one, the Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. I think it would be better to call it the Parable of the Lost Sons or the Parable of the Loving Father.
It's incredibly hard to do this story justice in just a small blog post. So for the full impact, go ahead and read Luke 15:11-32. Don't have a bible? Check it out here on Bible Gateway:
The son looks his father in the eye and says I want my inheritance. Basically, the son looks his dad in the eye and says "I wish you were dead. I would rather have money from you than any form of a relationship." His father consents, gives him his inheritance, and the son goes off to a far country. He then spends all of his money, every dime. Soon a famine comes and after a series of events he decides he'll go back to his dad, apologize for everything, and ask to be hired on as a servant - knowing he doesn't deserve to be accepted back as a son. This is what I love.
Verse 20: “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him."
Every single day since the son left, the father would walk outside, look down the long road, and hope that his son would return. His servants even knew about it. He would come out of his house and with hope ask his servants..."Have you seen him? Have you seen my son today?" "No, sir," they would reply. Embarrassed, they would look down and walk away. Everyday this same routine. "What about today? Have you seen my son today? Maybe today is the day he will come home?" "I'm sorry, sir, but we haven't seen anyone today."
And then "today" arrived. The Father walks outside and looks down the road. Off in the distance he sees someone approaching. Frantically, he asks his servants - "Do you see that?! Do you see someone coming up the road?! Do we have any visitors coming today??" With that, he takes off. Slowly at first and as the person comes more into view he realizes it's his son. Now he's sprinting. As he nears his son he throws his arms open and embraces his lost son. Kisses him. Beams at him.
The son begins his well planned speech. The one about how he doesn't deserve to be a son, but maybe he could be a hired servant. I loved how the father doesn't even acknowledge what the son is saying. He immediately begins calling servants to prepare for the biggest celebration of all times. A party to celebrate his son who was lost, but now is found; a son who was dead, but now is alive.
Enter: elder brother. Remember my changed title? The Parable of the Lost Sons. There were two sons. This elder son is filled with anger and bitterness. He lashes out at his Father - "All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!" Bitterness. Anger. Rage. His heart is so hard. There is not an ounce of joy that his brother has returned. He can't even say "my brother" he calls his brother "that son of yours."
Two lost sons. One loving Father. Notice how the Father leaves the party to care for his older son. He ran down the road for the younger son. You see, the Father always comes after us. He comes running after us when we have distanced ourselves from him. And he comes gently up to us when we have become a slave to our own hard hearts.
He is a loving Father and he will go to any lengths to bring us from lost to found, dead to alive. He radically loves us and pursues our hearts.

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