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
Becoming a dad is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Once I think I have a handle in it, I lose 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.”
Jesus influence and instruction were creating great interest. 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 was causing a conflict. We’re told, “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 told three stories. The last parable tells of 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 our pathway to parenting.
He Longs. In this story, the prodigal had serious issues. His entitlement led to his emptiness. He had set aside the learning from his childhood and traded them for a lusty life. Instead of embracing wisdom, he excessively wasted all he had. He screwed up and messed up. He had it all and lost it all. 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’m 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. Grace took the place of guilt. Our Heavenly Father longs for us and we learn from Him. 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). His father did not 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 longed for his son’s return. He looked for his son’s return. And, he loved his son when he returned. There was not an accounting of wrongs. There was 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 was evident in his affection . . . he ran, he embraced and he kissed him. When the son took the first step, his father ran the rest of the way. Paul tells us, “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 wrote, “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. For some, this may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done . . . but . . . it’s the best thing you will ever do.