For all of us who have children that have gone astray…here is a really good post for you to read! This is from one of our new writers. This is awesome Jon…keep ’em coming!-anita
I have usually looked at the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15&version=NASB) from the son’s viewpoint and I think this is how most people look at it. After all that is how the parable itself is told to us and the bulk of the story does deal directly with the son. I’ve also heard some teaching on the elder brother who is, according to most interpretations I have heard, supposed to represent the Pharisees or others among the Jewish people who considered themselves as above reproach. However, I have never heard much teaching about the father.
If the elder brother is the self-righteous, religious leaders and the younger son represents those who have sinned and, knowing this, approach God with a humble and contrite heart (Jesus mentions them a few chapters later in Luke 18:9-14 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+18&version=NASB) then who is the father? It seems reasonable to assume that he must represent God himself. He is the source of every good thing in the brothers lives – the inheritance that the younger one squanders, the ring and robe he’s given on his return, even the fat calf that is for everyone (even the sour elder brother) to enjoy. You see this too in his responses to his sons throughout the story. Never does he respond with anger or bitterness or frustration. He is the perfect illustration of patience, peace and lovingkindness; truly a “good, good father.” I, on the other hand, am all too human.
You see, I have a 38 year old son of my own who is on a long, prodigal trip and not yet ready to stop certain behaviors and give control of his life back to God. The younger son is a pretty good fit for him. I, of course, am the father. I wish I could say that I always deal with this situation with the Father’s love, compassion and kindness but the truth is I don’t very often.
Today, for example, he called. We’ve been playing phone tag all week; he’ll call and we don’t seem to be near the phone then we’ll call back and he’s not there. But he called today and I answered. Right there is an opening for God – Lord, what do you want me to say, how should I respond, how can I bless and encourage him today? I wish I thought of these things before the fact but, far too typically, I don’t. The conversation didn’t go well. He wanted to yell about a lot of things from the moment I said hello and say things that I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean. Opening number two – Lord, what in the world am I supposed to do with this? How would you respond this in a positive and encouraging way? Again, I wish I responded this way but I didn’t. Instead I let him have it and finished up with a pretty significant profanity. Then I hung up on him. Opening number three – for the Lord to deal with me with considerably more gentleness than I showed.
That is the significance of the father in the story for me. The younger son and the elder brother are easy to see as ourselves because they are imperfect and flawed from the start. The father however is far harder to see as myself because he is good in ways that I want to be and too often fail at. So now, instead of “well done, good and faithful…”, I find myself living psalm 51, “against you only have I sinned…” because that is what I have really done. As much as I have sinned against my son I have sinned much more against God who loves all the characters in the story with the same love. And yet I find that in the midst of the guilt and the shame is a nugget of grace. I was approached during the Sunday service by someone who said “You should write for the blog.” I think it was God since I had been wrestling with exactly that idea. I’m glad when he talks to me that way because I had been wondering if he was still there – and he was. With that comforting thought in mind, he gave me a test which I promptly blew but God works all things together for good. Even as I was feeling pretty bad about the way things had gone, God was saying, “Look up…” I responded in my humanity but he responded in his godliness, without anger or recrimination. So, instead of wallowing a self pity or anger I got up and kept going.
My son came over today. I sat in the basement working. Finally, I gathered my courage and went upstairs to meet him. We both said sorry and looked each other in the eye and just like that it was as though the whole thing had never happened. It was good to be reconciled. As we sat talking he said, “I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately; been thinking about going to get some counseling, I think its time.”
Hallelujah! God took my sinful outburst and reduced it to its real size and then he gave me a gift I hadn’t even been expecting. I’m pretty sure he was smiling. Because that’s what good fathers do.
By: Jon H. Roark