In the Prodigal Son story that the gospel of Luke shares, we usually read it in a generalized form. We know the different characters of the story and their responses to the different events. The father allows his younger son to take his share of the inheritance, which is lavishly spent on the "pleasures" of this world. The younger son soon realizes he has blown it and makes his way home to apologize for his actions. Despite what has happened, the father welcomes the younger son back and throws an extravagant party for the son since he has now returned. Meanwhile, the older son slaves away at the work and is now furious that his brother is receiving "special treatment" after what he did with the inheritance.
While we might grasp the over arching theme of the story -- forgiveness for one's wrong doings -- have we ever considered the full impact of what has just taken place. The younger son has just blown a significant amount of money and is left with nothing. The father, who could have been outraged at his son's actions, welcomes him with open arms. The older son questions the actions of his father -- not realizing what he has had all this time.
What does it look like to receive such a gift as the younger son receives? How much courage did it take for the son to admit his failure? Why does the father welcome the son back? Were the emotions of the older son reasonable?
In theory, these questions may appear to be simple to answer. Yet, to fully live out this story in our own lives is much more challenging. I know for myself, it is hard to admit faults and seek forgiveness. The shame and guilt of what has been done can be hard to overcome. There is a risk of vulnerability. There is a risk of of being rejected. Furthermore, if someone has wronged us in any way, there can always be a hesitancy to welcome them back. The trust we had in them has been broken by their actions. Why should I welcome them back? Finally, would we respond any different than the older brother if someone we knew received better treatment than us after making a huge mistake?
The richness of the Prodigal Son story can bring about a myriad of thoughts and reflections. I wish to leave you with a couple final thoughts on what this story may look like to our relationship with God:
1. In life, God allows us to go out into the world and experience it -- the good and the bad. Yet, no matter how much we have squandered the resources we are given, God is always willing to welcome us back with open arms. The grace and forgiveness offered by God is also for all people -- no exclusions.
2. God desires for us to be his "stewards" and not his "slaves". In life, sometimes we get caught up in the practicalities of life and we miss what God is willing to offer us if we but stop and ask him. Yes, we are called to do work, but the work we do should not blind us from the joy and freedom God desires for us all.
No matter where you are at in your life, may the knowledge of God's amazing grace and love remind you that you are never too far gone to "find your way home".
Pastor Arlyn ><>