Look Closer

Luke 15:11-32

How many times have you read the story of the prodigal son?  My guess is that it’s a lot.  In fact, this BibleJournal blog has 10 articles about it.  Obviously, it is a valuable story.  Even so, I have to admit that I was a little bummed when I was assigned this scripture again.  I mean, hasn’t it all been said?  Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking, and I am thinking it too.  I need to check my pride at the door and take a closer examination of my life.  In so many ways, I am a prodigal son.  Today, however, I want to look at the story differently.  Let’s focus on the father.  We are, after all, trying to focus the character of God.  This familiar story reveals much about His character.  Here are four character traits of God that I see in it.

He gives us freedom  As did the father and prodigal son, we begin life in a relationship with God.   As time passes, however, we may refuse the relationship.  When we do, God does not seek to control us.  Instead, he allows us to pack up our gifts and talents and use them however we want.  It’s up to us.

He longs for us We don’t get details from this parable, but it’s there.  Consider for a moment how the father felt as his son was leaving, or maybe a year later.  He missed him.  The Bible has several stories about how God misses us when we choose something other than him.  In the parable of the lost sheep, for example, the shepherd leaves 99 sheep to search out the one missing (Matthew 18:12-14).  Or, the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10.  Isaiah 30:18 says it directly,  Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. (NIV)

He Forgives. While my view of forgiveness often gets distorted.  God’s is always the same.  Whatever our crime, whatever our transgression, God removes it.  As far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12).

He establishes his kingdom within us. The father, in the story reminds the second son that “you are always with me and everything that is mine, is yours.”  God doesn’t hold anything back to those that love him.  He gives us his kingdom, literally.   We are reminded of this in the book of Acts.  As the disciples share the love of God, they “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).  Galatians 5:22-24 expounds on this.  His kingdom in us looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

We can discern God’s character by the actions of the father in this parable..  If I were to sum it up, I would use one word; love. What better scripture to encapsulate it than 1 Corinthians 13:4-8?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV)