The father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.”
One of my most vivid memories of adolescence is when Amy and I were juniors in high school and we decided to play hooky from school. We were both honor roll students. We never gave our parents or teachers any trouble at all. But one spring day we were headed to school and I looked over at Amy and said, “Why don’t we have some fun and skip school today?” Amy looked at me like I had invited her to snort cocaine with me. She came up with all of these reasons we shouldn’t skip school, including the reactions of our moms, who were both high school teachers. But I continued to paint pictures of all the fun we could have that day and finally she gave in.
We started thinking up ideas of what we could do with our freedom. But every idea we came up with was met with an objection. It would cost too much. We might get caught. Our parents would disapprove. We finally settled on two destinations for our day of freedom. First, we went to my dad’s office and hung around with him for a while. Then the only other thing we could think of to do was to go to the church. We walked around awhile and then went across the street and had lunch. As the afternoon turned to evening, we knew it was time to go home. We were paralyzed with fear—what kind of reaction would our moms have? Would they be relieved to see us, glad to know we were safe, elated that we hadn’t eloped? Or would they be vengeful, wrathful, mean? Well, we got home and it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be . . . it was worse. They unloaded on us. I tell you, if I had known they were going to be that mad at us, we would have stayed away a lot longer and had a lot more fun.
Do you imagine God as an angry, vengeful parent wanting to inflict as much punishment as possible if we come back home to Him? Or do you think of God as a loving parent who welcomes us when we return home? Which is the more accurate portrayal of God? In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus shows us what kind of father is waiting for us. Remember, the Pharisees pictured God as an avenging parent who hated sinners. But Jesus came to say God loves sinners.
And to show us what God’s attitude toward sinners really is, in Luke 15, Jesus tells two parables that have the same theme: God doesn’t hate sinners—He loves sinners and rejoices when they come home. For example, Jesus’ first parable is about the shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away. What does the shepherd do? Does he say, “Well, a 1 percent loss, I can endure that. I’ll just concentrate on these ninety-nine and try not to lose any more”? No. Jesus said he leaves the ninety-nine and goes and looks for that one sheep. And when he finds that sheep, does he scold and punish the sheep? No, you don’t hate things that are lost. You love them, you search for them, and you rejoice when you find them. Then Jesus tells the story about the woman who has ten coins and she loses one. What does she do when she loses that coin? Does she say, “Well, a 10 percent loss, it could be worse. I’ll just concentrate on these other nine coins”? No, she looks for that lost coin. She searches for it with everything she has and when she finds it, she’s not angry with the coin. She doesn’t toss it away. She holds it closely. It’s something of value. And so it is with God, Jesus said. God doesn’t hate those who are lost. He loves them, He searches for them, and He rejoices when He finds them.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Waiting Father” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.