“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 15:21-24
I remember reading a story more than 20 years ago about Charles Spurgeon. It seemed that he had to be away from his church for a certain length of time and his absence necessitated him having to get someone to speak in his place. Finally the decision came to use a young man who had nowhere near the experience Charles had and for Charles this set off a great inner struggle. After all, he was the great Spurgeon who at such a young age himself had a congregation of thousands, which in his day was no small thing.
Via telegraph, I believe, Charles asked his wife what the young man preached for his first service and how the congregation responded. She replied that the sermon was on John 3:16 and that the congregation was extremely receptive! After both the second and third time the young man was to speak Charley inquired of his wife as to the message and the results, to which he was shocked to hear that this young man preached again and again on the same text, John 3:16. The point, to which Spurgeon could not at first grasp, was that the theme of the Father’s Love is one that is not only endless in its impact, but one that if really understood, brings about real change.
The story in Luke 15 is so foreign to what we often see and experience in the “Church” today. I certainly believe that the Body of Christ needs to police itself under the guidance of Scripture, and that as Believers; we should always seek to live above reproach. I also feel, however, that we have far too often developed a Gestapo type of theology, which many feel gives them the right and responsibility to “clean up and straighten out” those in the church who fall prey to sin. Enough said about that for the moment, but I know you know what I am talking about.
The son in the text above basically said to his father one day, “Dad, I wish you were dead so that I could have what is coming to me!” The father, however, disregards the insult and gives his son what he desires. When you understand that the intent of this story, as told by Jesus, was to reveal the great love the Father has for us, you begin to realize just how much of an offense the boy really committed. And then, he comes back begging for forgiveness and grace.
“What nerve! How dare he come back after what he did! He hasn’t paid for what he’s done! He just came back because things got tough out there! He hasn’t suffered enough! His heart is still not right!” These and many other thoughts come to mind as we read the account of this boy who so insulted and sinned against his father.
Let’s refer to what the father, the one really offended, has to say about all of this. “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.”
Notice the absence of even the slightest rebuke, words of condemnation or harsh statements by the father! Daddy just forgave and welcomed the boy back. He recognized that his son was “dead” and “lost”, but now he was “alive” and “found.” This, my friend, is the heart of the Father; Reconciliation, restoration and rejoicing.
How many out there have blown it big time and have experienced anything but this Father’s Love? All too often, people are bombarded with additional shame, guilt and reproach for their sins. The “church” has yet to fully understand the love of the Father and the admonition Paul gives in Galatians 6:1. How many have fallen away, not because of their sins, but because of the reaction and response from the Body of Christ towards that sin?
There is nothing you have done that can keep you from the same extravagant love that the boy in our story experienced. This is by no means a license to sin or an excuse for ungodly living! It is, however, a word of encouragement to you who have been cast away by the very ones who should have stood with you in your healing process because of some sin.
If you would, please come home and get your robe, ring and sandals. It is time to kill the fatted calf and celebrate! You are loved.