A father had two sons who he loved very much. In fact, his love for them was perfect and unending. Unfortunately, due to ignorance, neither son realized his father’s love. They did not know that contentment, happiness, peace, freedom, and the enjoyment of pleasures came from knowing and possessing the love of their father.
His own passions enslaved him, he ran into troubles due to failed relationships, and he began to struggle to make life work.
Not knowing the father’s love, one son, feeling restless and too restrained, decided to leave the father and journey out to experience greater freedom. He thought freedom was enjoying life’s pleasures by doing what he wanted to do. He pursued the life he thought would make him happy, but all did not go as he planned. On his own, he did not have what it took to overcome the evils, both within himself, and in the world. His own passions enslaved him, he ran into troubles due to failed relationships, and he began to struggle to make life work. Eventually, his resources diminished, and what others did to help him failed to satisfy a deep hunger for the life he hoped to find.
One day, this son awoke to the fact that his life was in ruin and he had nothing left, not even his dignity and sense of self-worth. He thought about his father, thinking that life with his father had to be better than the life he was living. He decided go home and admit he was wrong for believing that doing his own thing, apart from the father, was a better way to live. Although feeling shame, and unsure of his father’s response, he would humbly ask his father if he could come back. As he neared home, with unexpected astonishment, the son felt overwhelmed by the non-judgmental warmth and eager love of his father. Realizing his son’s change of heart, the father ordered a great celebration in honor of his return. I suspect that the love he experienced from his father caused the same kind of love to be born in his own heart, and through that love, he discovered and lived the kind of life that went way beyond what he ever imagined could be possible.
The other son, even though he stayed with the father, was likewise ignorant of the father’s love. When he saw how his father loved his disgraceful brother, he grew angry and would not attend the welcome home party. If he had truly known the love of the father, he would have loved his brother. To him, love was something to be earned by being good and obeying the father’s wishes. His brother did not deserve to be loved, but to be reprimanded and punished for his shameful, unruly and delinquent lifestyle.
When the stay-at-home son did not listen to his father’s plea to come to the party, he proved to be as guilty of mismanaging life as his brother.
When the stay-at-home son did not listen to his father’s plea to come to the party, he proved to be as guilty of mismanaging life as his brother. In truth, he deserved judgment for his self-righteousness and refusal to understand what love was all about. I suspect that this son, if never coming to know the father’s lovingkindness, would have a long-standing resentment toward his brother, never allowing him to regain an honorable love and respect.
Jesus’ telling of this story in Luke’s gospel, chapter 15, lets us know that love is difficult, for we are ignorant of what love is.
Jesus’ telling of this story in Luke’s gospel, chapter 15, lets us know that love is difficult, for we are ignorant of what love is. The father of the story represents the God who made us, whose love is pure, endless, and unadulterated. We don’t find love by trying to live our own life away from the love of the father, nor do we find love by trying to do the impossible and be good enough to earn it. We find love when we experience God’s undeserved acceptance and have his love instilled in us by his Spirit. We find love when we continually trust the Father’s love toward us, especially in times we mess up. We find love through building our relationship with the father, and by learning, with the encouraging company of fellow believers, to practice the same kind of love that God has given us.
Article first appeared on Northwest Ohio Christian Voice