I am so thankful for my dad. Throughout my life, I have encountered people bereft of a dad, and it is evident that they have missed out on a significant and unique relationship. My children are extremely thankful for a godly father who has guided them throughout their lives - they wouldn't be who they are today without their dad.
There is a well-known narrative in the Bible that tells of a father and his unconditional love for his son, it is found in Luke 15: 11-32 and is the story of the prodigal son. The German theologian, Karl Barth said that to understand this parable in its fullness, we have to read the journey of the prodigal son alongside the journey of the Son of God. So lets see what the narrative looks like from that perspective.
Although the prodigal son was anxious to leave his father’s house, God’s Son did not hold onto his right to stay with his Father, but humbled himself and became a servant (Philippians 2:5-8.) Like the prodigal son, Jesus traveled into a ‘far country’ of sin and rebellion. But, there is a twist in this story because Jesus went further and crossed all the dividing lines into this ‘far country’ of sin and of death, not for Himself but for humanity. The Son of God, unlike the prodigal son, was an obedient Son, and when He returned to His Father, he returned with His hands full, not empty and wasted like the prodigal son. When Jesus went back to God, he took with him redeemed humanity. The prodigal son spent everything he had on himself in reckless living– Jesus gave everything he had for others in reckless love.
This story reveals, in a touching and beautiful way, the mission heart of God. He was so radical in His love for the world, that He willingly sent His Son into a depraved and wicked ‘far country’ to bring back the lost and hopeless to Him. In other words, God is, in Tim Keller’s words, a “Prodigal God.” Not only does this Prodigal God send His Son on a reckless mission into a forlorn world, but also opens His arms with unconditional love to receive the broken, hopeless and lost back into His fold. This is a Prodigal God. What unfathomable love - breathtaking in its capacity!
So what does this story mean for you as an individual?
1. God is a loving God. His love is reckless, because He would do anything to see you live in freedom and peace. To put it simply, God loves you just as you are.
2. God is a missional God. In fact, He was so desirous to see you redeemed that He willingly sent His only Son into a harsh, cruel world to die on the cross for you.
3. God is an incarnational God. He came to where you are. He moved into your neighborhood with His redeeming message. This is the wonderful news of the gospel, which still applies today. God comes to where you are and meets you in your space. Jesus came in the first Century, but His message is still applicable in the 21st century. The Son of God took a journey right into your lived existence.
What are we to do with this story?
1. God wants us to carry His message to a hurting world. This profound and reckless love is a love worth sharing. Simply put, God wants us to take this story to the places and spaces where people live right now. This message is as applicable in Europe as it is in Asia or anywhere in Africa or America. Jesus can, and does meet people in their particular and unique context.
2. God wants us to reveal His love to a hurting world. So often the Christian story is portrayed as a message of judgment. Many times this narrative becomes a list of what we can and cannot do. In truth, this story reveals a God, who is so in love with humanity that He shows it by sending His only Son on a reckless journey, into a 'far country' to be scorned, humiliated and hung on a cross - and all of this reckless love for humanity. He forgives and accepts corrupted, sinful humans unquestioningly and with open arms. God wants us now, like Jesus did, to enter into the center of people’s lived existences and show them His love.
3. God goes with us into this hurting world. God asks us to take His message to a hurting world by letting Jesus live in and through us. We do not do this on our own, Jesus goes with us and gives us the courage to go into the ‘far country’ with a message that is reckless, redeeming and relentless in its passion for lost men and women.
This is a beautiful love story! It won my heart, and my desire is that this magnificent narrative will infiltrate our world through faithful Christ followers, so that God’s love will be manifest to hurting humanity.
I am and always will be,
Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,