So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. (Luke 15:20 NLT)
Being a dad is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I’ve been at this “father” thing for almost 40 years. Once I think I have a handle on it, I find that I’ve lost my grip. When I think I have arrived, I realize I’m still on a journey.
Pope John XXIII said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.”
During His life, Jesus’ influence and instruction created great interest with some who were socially unacceptable. Luke tells us, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.” (Luke 15:1 NLT). He was different, He was dynamic, and He was deliberate. He “rattled some cages” because His love was reaching, redeeming and restorative.
This type of compassion causes controversy. The Scripture reads, “This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that He was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!” (vs 2)
To illustrate the heart of God, Jesus tells three stories. The last parable illustrates a father’s passion and priority . . . it’s the account of The Prodigal Son. There are so many layers of lessons . . . yet, the attitude and action of the father provides a priority of and pathway to parenting.
He Longs. In this story, the prodigal has serious issues. His entitlement leads to his emptiness. He sets aside the learning from his childhood and trades them for a lusty life. Instead of embracing wisdom, he excessively wastes all he has. He screws up and messes up. He has it all and loses it all. Yet, through humility, he turns his heart around. We often focus on the son’s “giving in”, but the bigger story is his dad’s refusal to “give up”. I am going to presume that the prodigal’s father made it a habit to hope for his son’s return. He was anticipating, waiting, and longing. Compassionate grace takes the place of condemning guilt. The prophet Isaiah writes, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.” (Isaiah 30:18 NIV).
He Looks. “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.” (Luke 15:20 NLT). I’ve often wondered how many days this dad was looking “a long way off”? I would surmise that searching the horizon each morning and each evening was part of his routine. His father didn’t know the condition of his son’s heart, yet he was still longing and looking for him. Brown writes, “Oh yes, when but the face is turned homeward, though as yet far, far away, our Father recognizes His own child in us, and bounds to meet us—not saying, ‘Let him come to Me and sue for pardon first’, but Himself taking the first step.” When a child is helpless and in destitute despair, a merciful father is scanning the horizon with hope of healing.
He Loves. He longs for his son’s return. He looks for his son’s return. And, he loves his son when he returns. There is not an accounting of wrongs. There is not a time of “I told you so”. Luke reminds us, “Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NLT). The father’s acceptance is evident in his affection . . . he runs, he embraces, and he kisses him. When the son takes the first step, his father runs the rest of the way. In his work, The Message, Peterson gives insight into Paul’s writings, “It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us!” (Eph 2:4-5 MSG)
John Ciardi writes, “Every parent is at some time the father of the unreturned prodigal, with nothing to do but keep his house open to hope.”
A father’s love . . . he longs, he looks, and he loves. As a dad, never give up . . . even if they’ve gone away.
For some, this may be one of the hardest things you have ever done . . . but . . . it’s the best thing you will ever do.