Living Lessons 10

Parable of the Prodigal Son

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. [Luke 15:11-13, ESV]

Another classic parable. The story of the prodigal son is sometimes referred to as the 'lost son' as it follows the parables of the 'lost coin' and the legendary story of the 'lost sheep'. There are some common home runs in this story that I have heard over the years. There is the beauty of the loving Father who accepts all who return; teaching us that God will always welcome us if we 'stray away'.

There is a focus on the older brother, calling out Christians who are focusing on duties but not the heart – teaching us to rejoice with others and not try to compare our works. I have even more recently heard a focus on the prodigal son directly, about the time in the fields where we found him wanting to eat with the pigs – teaching us that what God has is better than anything. All such valuable focuses, all valuable lessons for any human being that does life in a spiritual community.

There's something that stands out in this reading that I have often neglected because the ending of the story has always been presented as the epic conclusion – the embrace of the father and the son, the celebration of the return.

Though this is a beautiful presentation of the character of God, there is something even more meaningful to me to who I am today, and that happens at the beginning. It is this: the father allows the son to take his inheritance and leave. This is incredibly controversial. I am not a parent, yet I have the opportunity to work with youth daily. There are countless times when there are ideas presented, often amazing ones, but there are times when there are terrible ideas where I have to say, "We cannot do this.". I can only imagine, as a parent, that allowing their child to make a choice that would lead to their destruction would be an extremely difficult thing to do. But this is not a story on parenthood, but a story that reveals to us God's character.

In this story, we see that in love, God lets humans make their choices and never stops loving us. The love does not pause when the son leaves with inheritance, the love continues as the son leaves, it is the father's ability to love in freedom that allows the son to make the choice. The embrace at the return is a continuation of the love from the father, not a reset.

We often believe that in the moments when we feel distant; when we are in the moments when we have chosen our autonomy without God in the lens, that God's love pauses, but that is far from true. God's love surrounds us and is continually reaching, and the embrace that happens when we recognize that, even while we are in our lowest moment, is a continuation of the love from above, not a reset. God's love happens at the beginning of our story, it does not start then stop then start again. It starts at the beginning and continues through to the end and beyond. May we learn to love others around us in that manner. May we reform the narrative, that when people around us, people we care about, make choices that appear to be distant from God, may we rest assured that the love from God has not paused, and God’s love is evident in the fact that we can make any choice.

By Ben Amoah

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