Do you find it strange that we often describe others by their defects? “Drug addict,” “prostitute,” “adulterer,” and “thief” are just some of the many horrible descriptions we give to people every day, without realizing the deeper implications of our harsh judgments.
The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows us that God is very much interested in the lost – He seeks to save everyone. The story of the prodigal son is not just about the son who rebelled and left home, nor is it just about the one who stayed behind. Rather, it is about the unconditional love and open arms of the father, who welcomed both of his sons without hesitation.
Luke 15:12-16 reveals how the prodigal son asked for his share of the father’s inheritance, travelled to a far distant country, and squandered all that he had foolishly. When left with nothing, he went to work in a sty and even fed from the food meant for the swine. He was all alone!
The brother’s reaction to the prodigal son’s return helps us gain a bit more insight into the human condition, as we recognize that he had his own flawed motives for staying. Verses 18-31 is where we first see the anger exhibited by the older brother upon the prodigal son’s return. His selfishness blinded him to the point that he refused to see the prodigal son as his own brother.
Yet, Luke 15:20-24 presents to us the father’s loving response to his older son’s abrasive insults. It is this father’s love portraying the merciful character of God that can provide us inspiration in this story. As Christians, we have been called to live lives of loving service and sympathy to those we consider lost. The older brother did not understand this and refused to see the daily pain in the eyes of their father throughout the period of his brother’s waywardness. In the end, we find that the brother’s years of obedience to his father were that of selfish duty, not love.
Luke 15:17 marks the turning point in the life of the wayward son, as he remembers the father’s love back home. Such love pulled his broken and wasted life to the point of no resistance, as he made his way back home. We all need to recognize that the people we consider lost may at one point or the other be desperately trying to find their way back but cannot help themselves. The father in this parable depicts the love of God to the lost, sinful man.
Everyone who is lost needs to hear the message of redemption. This goes for those even in the homes where morning devotion is frequent, or who attend weekly Sabbath services. The only time they may deeply understand the message of redemption is in their helpless, lost state.
Therefore, returning the lost back to God is the highest service that we have been called to, knowing fully that God celebrates the return of a prodigal son.