Fuller

The Prodigal Father Once Again

October 27, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 15:31-32 (NRSV)

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Focus

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we see God’s amazing love as the “prodigal” father welcomes home his wayward younger son. Yet there is even more to God’s love. We see this as the “prodigal” father pursues his older son as well. God seeks us out and invites us home no matter the nature of our lostness.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion based on Jesus’s parable known as The Prodigal Son, we focused on the older brother. Though he did not leave home and live a life of prodigality – debauched extravagance –  like his younger brother, in many ways the older brother was “lost” as much as his younger brother had been. In fact, as the story ends, the younger brother is enjoying a party thrown in his honor while the older brother is outside sulking.

When the father of the parable learns what his older son is doing, he does a surprising thing once again. He goes out, finds his older son, and pleads with him. The father begs his son to come in and join the celebration. Moreover, the father does not criticize or condemn his older son. He doesn’t accuse him of being dishonorable by failing to join a party thrown by his father. Rather, the father says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). How striking! The father affirms his older son and his faithfulness. He reassures him about his own inheritance. He reaffirms the older son’s secure position in the family. Yet the father continues to wish this son would join in the celebration of the younger son’s return.

In his wonderful book The Prodigal God, Tim Keller points out that both sons in Jesus’s parable need the extravagant love of the father, even as we need the extravagant love of God:

The first thing we need is God’s initiating love. Notice how the father comes out to each son and expresses love to him, in order to bring him in. He does not wait for his younger son on the porch of his home, impatiently tapping his foot, murmuring, “Here comes that son of mine. After all he’s done, there had better be some real groveling!” There’s not a hint of such an attitude. No, he runs and kisses him before his son can confess. It’s not the repentance that causes the father’s love, but rather the reverse. The father’s lavish affection makes the son’s expression of remorse far easier.

The father also goes out to the angry, resentful elder brother, begging him to come into the feast. This picture is like a double-edged sword. It shows that even the most religious and moral people need the initiating grace of God, that they are just as lost; and it shows there is hope, yes, even for Pharisees (The Prodigal God, pp. 73-74).

This is good news for all of us. If you relate more to the younger son, then God seeks to welcome you home. And if you relate more to the older son, then God also reaches out to you, inviting you into the divine celebration. No matter the quality of your lostness, God is in the finding business. God’s love in Jesus Christ will seek you out so that you, too, may be found.

Reflect

Have you ever been surprised by the way God has sought you out? If so, when? Why was that a surprise?

Why do you think it’s hard for religious people to accept the “finding” love of God?

Have you ever gone out of your way to reach out to someone who is lost in some way? If so, what happened?

Is there anyone in your life who needs to know the prodigal love of God communicated through you?

Act

Reach out to someone with God’s love today. If possible, let this person be someone you don’t usually communicate with.

Pray

Lord Jesus, once more I thank you for this parable. Today I am particularly grateful for the full picture of the father and his love. Yes, his love for his younger son is stunning. But he has yet more love to give, this time for his older son.

There are times, Lord, when I get stuck in my moral convictions, when I am prone to self-justification. I can be rather like the older brother, I’m afraid, cut off from you and not even realizing that I’m lost. Thank you for coming to find me. Thank you for your patience and faithfulness. Thank you for forgiving me and renewing me.

O Lord, in whatever state I’m in today, may I be open to your initiative. May I experience your love once again. And then, may I share this love with others, especially the “lost” ones in my life. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Verbs That Make All the Difference in the World: Splagchnizomai


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