In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son demanded that his father give him his inheritance, and then went off into the far country and squandered it all. Broke, shamed, hungry, and all alone, when this wayward son came to his senses and realized his great wickedness, he longed to return home. He was convinced he had forever destroyed his loving relationship as a son to his father, but hoped that he might be received as a slave to a master, a hired hand.
So, with the little strength he had left, he climbed out of the pig sty and headed back home to face his father and what would certainly be one of those “I told you so” moments we have all faced from time to time. 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 (Luke 15:20).
We are to see the father in this story as representing God. To those who heard Jesus relate this parable, it would have been remarkable to hear that the father, filled with compassion for the returning son, ran to meet him. At that time and in that culture, the normal response from a father who had been so utterly disrespected by his son was not to run and greet him with kisses upon his return. The neighbors would have been much less surprised to see the father spit in his wayward son’s face, rather than to see him gird up his outer garments and run toward his wayward son. The father’s actions would have been considered undignified and embarrassing to say the least. But not for Father God!
Again I ask, when was the last time you pictured a running Redeemer? James urges us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). The prodigal’s parable is a wonderful reminder of just how our heavenly father responds to His wicked and wayward children: He is a running Redeemer drawing near to you with an amazing love that simply will not be denied the object of its affection…YOU!
The 5 Ps
Is that not a source of great comfort to you as you go through the struggles and storms of this life? From time to time, we all wander into the far country. The world presents us with so many idols of the heart that seek to ensnare our affections, what I like to call the 5 Ps . . . power, pleasure, possessions, profits and prestige.
But after we have had our fill of these false gods that make promises they can never deliver on, and we come to our senses and head back home, our Redeemer does not wait on the porch with a stern, disapproving frown, prepared to lecture us or punish us for our foolish decisions. No, no, a thousand times NO! He runs to meet us and wraps his loving arms around us and showers us with the kisses of grace.
Now, if that does not light the fire of your faith . . . your wood is wet! Perhaps this day you are in a season of great success and faithfulness to God. Continue drawing near to Him, and He will continue drawing near to you. But maybe this finds you “eating pods with the pigs” in a season of struggle and raging storms; no matter how badly you may have fallen or failed, do not fail to return to your Father in heaven. When you do, be prepared to be met by a running Redeemer who will restore you to your rightful place as a child of the Most High God.
Remember this: a child of God is always a child of God even when he is not acting like one. And this is the confession of all our lives from time to time. There are those times when you and I have blown it badly! But we need not fear our Redeemer’s response. As we return to Him, He runs toward us. Rest in that comfort today and every day until that day when you will be forever united with your Running Redeemer!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that . . . Amen.
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.