Christianity is unique among religions in that the supreme being invites a close personal relationship with believers. God is a “father” instructing, correcting and loving His children. The Bible often refers to God this way, and in fact Jesus referred to God as His father. This is intentional and significant because it defines the relationship that God wants for us with Him.
The nature of the parent-child relationship is more close and special than any other that exists. Friend, girlfriend, wife, nothing compares to the unconditional nature of that relationship, all accepting, all supporting, the purest love. Anyone who has raised a child understands this supernatural bond.
Of all the lessons in the Bible, the story of the prodigal son most illustrates this point. Set forth in Luke 15:11-32 (NIV), Jesus tells the story of the man with two sons. One is devoted, the other rebellious. The rebellious son leaves, and his father does not stop him. This son squanders his inheritance, his life turns to ruin, and he ends up tending hogs where the slop looks more inviting than his own meager meals. At his lowest he sets off for home, unsure of the reception he will receive after so long away and after having turned his back on his father and family. The reception he receives is noting less than miraculous…fine robes, a feast, no questions asked about where he had been, just a joyous reunion filled with amazing love and acceptance.
This story perfectly illustrates the nature of our relationship with God. We are the rebellious son. We are headstrong, foolish, and demanding of instant gratification no matter the cost. We do not want to wait for the glory that God has awaiting us nor do we wish to be restrained by the rules God has laid out for us…we know best. Like the wild and immature son, we wish to squander our inheritance now, with no patience or vision for the future. God sees this in us, as the father saw the recklessness of his son, and God lets it happen. He will not force us to love Him and obey Him and accept His rules. True love cannot be forced.
My favorite part of the story is the journey home. He has been gone a long while, is likely in rags, thin and frail and disheveled. He is after all homeless and living on the street. Yet Jesus tells us that, “while he was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion and love for him.” His father, who had not seen him for years perhaps (the Bible does not say how long although we can deduce that it was quite a long time), recognizes his lost son though in torn clothes, shoe-less, from a long way off! Clearly he was anticipating his son’s return since the day he had left! And only a loving, caring parent could recognize their child no matter how they looked, no matter how long it has been since they were last together. I know that I recognize my children’s cries, their walk, their mannerisms and can pick them out in any crowd.
Like the father in this story God is waiting on you to come back to Him. He sees you have been rebellious and selfish and sinning, and he let you do your thing because He cannot force you to live a life He wants for you. Yet He is confident that when you realize that a life of sin and pleasure, without God, without his commanding guidance, without His peace, you will turn around and head home.
And when you come home, you can be certain that God will embrace you, wrap you in the finest robes, feed you the best food, take care of your every need, like the loving father that He is, without any questions and recriminations. You can shed your old life at His feet, and be transformed back into the child of God you always were meant to be because that is how you were made by Him.
God has patience for us…He loved us so much that He sent His son, Jesus Christ to die for us. So that believing in Him we might again have eternal life with the father. He gave us a way home! If you are out of answers, tired of trying to fight life’s battles alone, at the bottom spiritually, physically, emotionally, then the answer is simple. Turn back and head home. The prodigal son was never asked “where were you,” or “how could you,” or even “I told you so.” He was wrapped in love, his father rejoiced, and the son’s life immediately improved for the better. Turn around. I did, and it was the best journey I ever made.