As Christians, we strongly encourage coming to God, but we fail to remember the abyss from which we came. The parable of the prodigal son is a near quintessential model of the rescue we needed from Jesus in our lives. It represents how our sin was completely forgotten and that there is joy in surrendering to God.
While the idea of abundant forgiveness is true, it's not the full picture of what Jesus intended. In Luke 15:1-2, we read about a scene that included a group of tax collectors and sinners and a group of Pharisees and scribes. Jesus tells the perfect parable to engage both groups, which correlate to the attitudes of many of us today.
If you have not yet read the parable or, like me, it's been a while since you last read it, don't fret. Join me as we explore a great message from Jesus. The parable can be found in Luke 15:11-32.
A man had two sons. The younger of the two asked for "his share of the property," essentially his inheritance, and his father gave it to him. The younger son then took everything he had and left, squandered all of it (thus giving him the title, the "prodigal son"), and found himself homeless and hungry. He went to a citizen of the far country he visited and took a job feeding pigs; his hunger was so drastic that he craved the pods that he was feeding the pigs.
The prodigal son remembered how well fed the servants at his father's house were. If he were to return home, he planned to work as no more than a servant for his own father, understanding the grave mistake he made. When he returned home, however, his father saw him in the distance and rushed to embrace him and called for a celebration of his homecoming.
As stated earlier in Luke chapter 15, there were tax collectors and sinners present for the parable. The first half of this story is directed at such a crowd. Jesus wants us as sinners to know that no matter how far we wander from His will or how desperate for His grace we are, we will be welcomed back with open arms. If we humble ourselves enough to trust God with the plans for our lives, there is a spiritual celebration that follows.
As I mentioned earlier, the story doesn't end with the prodigal son. The elder son, after hearing the party in the house, asked a servant what was happening. When told his brother was back and they were celebrating, he grew angry. The elder brother told his father, "Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends."
The elder brother's attitude is another warning that Jesus has for the group hearing His story, though this time He is addressing the Pharisees and scribes. They had claimed to follow Old Testament law very rigorously, and they viewed their action and religious legalism as the one path to heaven while perpetually condemning the tax collector and sinner lifestyles. This is often true for some of us who grew up as Christians. If we view other people's sin with judgment, and as if they are somehow not worthy of God's love even when they repent and commit to Christ, we aren't following Jesus' command here. The father from the story (who represents God) told his older son, "It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."
As Christians we are expected to be like Christ, and Christ forgives the sins of those who confess them (I John 1:9). Our pretentious refusal to pardon others of trespasses that they didn't even commit against us gives us resemblance to that of the religious leaders in Jesus' day.
When those people that may have a past saturated with sin make a radical transformation, are you truly joyful for them? Are you currently wandering from God intentionally and need to humble yourself to return to Him? A sole blog doesn't do the magnitude of this parable justice, so as you reflect, I encourage you to seek answers for any questions you may have.
Hoping to have the heart of the Father