Prodigal Justice Incarnated as Love

Have you ever just wanted to run away?

Have you ever felt so stressed,

unhappy,

depressed,

scared,

out of your depth,

restless,

bored,

or just like you want to walk away from everything?

I’ve felt like that a number of times, and I think it’s a pretty normal response to life when we are under pressure or dissatisfied.

There was this young lad. He felt some of what I just described. He has a comfortable life: settled; got money; wants for nothing; but there’s this discontent within him. He wants more; he wants to see the world; he wants to be free from the restraints of his home life.

So, he hatches a plan.

He goes to his Dad, and he says

“Dad, Half of what you own is gonna be mine when you die, but I’d like to have it now. I want to go travelling; I want to make my own way in the world; Give me my inheritance now?”

If we are honest, perhaps we are a bit like this son. We want it all, and we want it now!

This lad is basically turning round to his dad and is saying – I wish you were dead! Can you imagine? Imagine if your kids turned round to you and demanded their inheritance now. How would you feel? I bet the father was totally GUTTED!

The Father

So, the father has just had this conversation with his son. His son wants to leave. He wants money and he wants it now. The Father gives him the cash and lets him go.

The Father LETS the son go.

The Father could’ve forced him to stay.

But he doesn’t.

The Father could’ve refused to give him cash.

But he doesn’t.

The Father could’ve asserted his authority.

But he doesn’t.

It doesn’t feel right – it doesn’t feel like a just decision. In fact, it feels like a gross injustice!

He allows the son to make his own choices, and despite his own heart breaking… he lets him go.

Later…

The son goes on his road trip. He parties hard! He spends a ton of cash. He gets a posse of followers.

And then the cash dries up. His friends leave him one by one – turns out he was just a cash cow! Now he’s alone and penniless. Then life gets really tough – famine hits. People are having to choose between paying their bills or feeding their families. It’s hard times and it becomes a hard life! But, he hasn’t got his family to help him now. Remember he walked away from them. He left them for a better life. And now he’s got a job living with pigs in their sty!

Maybe he’s getting his just desserts! Perhaps this is justice.

His life: living in poverty, feeding pigs, and eating the pig’s food just to survive. I imagine he stinks of pig by now, and he’s sitting near the pigsty and he’s thinking,

“I used to be filthy rich, but now I’m just filthy!”

So he hatches another plan. He tells himself:

“I’ll travel back home to dad and ask if I can work for him as a servant. I’ve done him wrong, but he might have me back as a servant”

So he starts his journey home.

And while he is still A LONG WAY OFF the father sees him.

The father runs to him. I mean he really runs to him. Perhaps he has waited months or even years for his son to come home, back to the Father’s House. Perhaps he has been riddled with the guilt of letting him go.

The father runs like crazy to welcome his lost son home again

The son starts his speech,

“Dad I messed up…”

The father cuts him off. “Son, welcome home. I missed you. I love you. I have longed for this day!” The son is gob-smacked! He’s too stunned, silent, and surprised to respond.

Father calls his servants (Yes, this lad left a rich household where he had everything on tap!) to prepare a party with the best foods. He calls for fresh clothes, bling and shoes for his youngest boy.

The boy who ran away has returned and the father is now inviting all the neighbours.

But stop!

The son doesn’t deserve this. He disrespected his dad. He wished him dead. He took the cash and fled. He’s done shameful things.

Is this justice. Is this really how the story should go.

What would you do?

Would you accept him back, or tell him to sling his hook?

In this story (from Luke 15 in the Bible) we see the real justice of God: where God is more concerned about restoring the relationship with us, than he is about making us feel bad. He knows his son has lost everything, but he also knows how hard it was for his son to come back home to him.

God is just.

He always does the right thing.

He is always waiting for us to return to him.

I wonder today if you can hear him speaking to your heart?

He is always looking for us returning in the distance.

I wonder today if he sees you taking steps towards him?

He is always ready to accept and embrace us when we return?

I wonder if you are ready to return to God who loves you today?

He is willing to take our past, our shame, our sin, our filth, our unworthiness, our mistakes, and he is willing to say it’s okay. I forgive you. I accept you, and I embrace you as my child once more. You were created to be a child of God, living close to God.

I wonder if you are hearing his voice today, speaking to your heart.

How will you respond to the love and justice of God today?

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