Having examined Jesus’ short story called ‘the Prodigal Son’, I want to show how in reality Luke 15:11-32 is about ‘A Compassionate Father’. A good teacher is someone who takes listeners from: (1) the known to the unknown (2) the text into their context and (3) where they are to where they ought to be, by the grace of God. First, allow me to attempt to do just this with this familiar story and encourage us, the Church, to do “whatever it takes” to see those, especially in our immediate family, without the hope of salvation and eternal home, return and be reconciled to God
I am surprised how few know what ‘prodigal’ means! No, it is not about a dirty, rotten, scoundrel who is altogether ‘wicked’ but rather refers to a reckless person who is extravagant or ‘wasteful’. Observe the responses to the ‘prodigal’s return’ by the compassionate Father, then the judgmental brother. We still have our ‘prodigals’who were once part of our fellowship or the ‘house of the Lord’ but have gone wayward and are ‘lost’. I’d like to consider the Father’s response as the way God desires to work in and through us to reclaim such a loved one. This will certainly entail developing a heart of compassion! Studying the ways of the Father’s heart and his actions can inform and inspire us in this direction
NB: (1) the Father’s love was willing to let go of the young man adamant to exercise his own freewill, yet it was a love that tarried or waited with longsuffering (2) The Father was not distant or indifferent but demonstrated com-passion literally he ‘suffered with’ this young man. Whatever the answer is to ‘why suffering’, Christianity starts with a theodicy that factors in a God who himself [in Christ] suffers with/for humans (3) The Father never gave up on the son or held his past against him. His compassion was marked by deep burden, anticipation, prayer and preparation for his boy’s return (4) He was more than ready to receive the errant son, convinced he had suffered enough in the world for his delinquent ways (5) Touching is the father’s unrestrained public expression of emotions as he embraces, literally envelops him and floods him with kisses! I am convinced, this boy always knew his father’s nature and I know, if we have this same nature (2Pet.1:4) many a ‘prodigal’ in our families will be back home!
This dear son once lost, now found, demanded a grander reception & celebration than the case of a dumb sheep or dead coin. Before the party, note what the Father symbolically supplies for this boy’s ‘homecoming’: (a) a gold Ring indicating a royal relationship, sense of belonging and authority [signet] in the house. (b) a Robe, of righteousness, that special garment reserved for an exclusive guest of honor (c) Shoes for his feet, slaves didn’t wear, yet implying responsibility and service go hand in glove with household privileges (d) a fattened Calf of rejoicing prepared for this momentous, festive occasion. The badge of all true followers of Christ is that we are forgiving and no matter what, seek to love others as we have been loved! May God give us his compassionate heart to win the lost at any cost!