The Standard June 18, 2020
Nothing paints a more beautiful picture of God’s overwhelming love than Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Son. The second oldest son asks his father for his share of the inheritance and goes off to spend it in wild living. When he finds himself destitute after squandering everything, he comes to his senses and realizes that his father’s servants have it better than he does. He is feeding someone’s pigs and longing to eat even their scraps, ultimate humiliation for a Jewish person. The son decides to go to his father to apologize and practices what he will say. It turns out that his father has been on the look-out, watching eagerly for his return.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick, Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:20b-24)
Jesus is describing the joy of the Father when one of us seeks forgiveness. No matter how far away we have wandered, God is always waiting for us to return. In the gospels we read about the nature of God the Father, as described by Jesus. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)
Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30)
Some of us might not have had positive experiences with our fathers or father figures, so it can be especially difficult to understand the perfect parental love of God. Even if we have had terrific parents, as great as the love they have shown, it cannot measure up to God’s. Author and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton calls it the “furious love of God.” Brennan Manning writes of us being God’s beloved and says it’s as if God is saying to each of us individually, “I am particularly fond of you.” We probably cannot fully grasp how all-encompassing God’s love truly is. No matter what we have done or what we have failed to do, the Father runs to us, ready to embrace and forgive us and to shower us with unconditional affection. It is amazing grace.