Español: Regreso del hijo pródigo, Louvre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’m sure most readers of this blog are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In case you’re not familiar with it (or to briefly remind those who are) here is Jesus’ story from Luke 15:
There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’
Here’s the contrast between the sons:
Son 1, the younger son, was separated from his father because of his own pride, selfish ambition, and disrespect. Pretty much anyone in the world could tell you he’d been a bad boy, and the results of his actions show karma at work – who wants to long for pig food?
Son 2, in contrast, had always been a good boy. He’d served his father, he’d been obedient, and yet he’s the one who at the end is separated from his father. Wow.
It doesn’t make sense, does it?! The bad guy gets a party in his honour while the good guy sits outside in the darkness on his own? But it does when you realise that this story isn’t really a story about ‘the prodigal son’, it’s about the father! The father goes out to meet both sons; he runs out and hugs his repentant Son 1, and leaves the party to entreat Son 2…do you see that the distinguishing factor here isn’t their works, it’s their response to their Dad?
An atheist I was chatting to recently said that she didn’t believe in God because there are so many different versions of God (Muslim, Jew, etc) that they must all be wrong. Ridiculous logic, but there you go. But she is wrong. There are not different versions of God, there is one true God and a whole bunch of false gods (one of which is the false god of atheism – discuss). The question really is: how do you tell which god is the real one?
I’ll tell you which one: the God who guarantees your eternal destiny right now by grace through your faith in the completed work of his Son’s life, death, resurrection and ascension. Anyone trusting in some form of their own good works is excluding themselves from the party!
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.