Identity and God's Love for Us

Perhaps one of my favorite parables Jesus ever told is the parable of the prodigal son. If you are not familiar with this passage of Scripture, it is found in Luke 15, which you can read for yourself by following the link or below I have provided a summary of the text. 

There was once a man who had two sons. One day, the younger of the two sons came to his father and demanded he be given his share of the inheritance. The father complied, dividing his property, and gave to his son the full amount of the inheritance he was due. Soon after, the younger son with his inheritance in hand, departed from his father's house and wasted everything he had partaking in "reckless living." After wasting away the entirety of his inheritance a severe famine struck the countryside and the younger son was forced to hire himself out to a local farmer tending to his drove of pigs.

The son soon found himself at rock bottom in a stable of hogs, dwelling in a state of such incredible destitution that he became envious of the meals he was feeding the swines. No one gave anything to him. The son was truly alone. His desire to chase after that which he thought would make him happy in life had ultimately left him unsatisfied and hopeless. In his isolation, he recalled the life he left behind, his home, his family, and the blessings he had in being called a son. Even the servants who worked for his father were treated well and were given more than enough food to live, and there he was, tending hogs in the muck and mire, on the brink of starvation.

Coming to his senses, the son developed a plan to return home, preparing a speech of repentance that would end with him offering himself as a servant to his father, just so he would be able to survive. Rehearsing the apology along the road, the son saw his childhood home enter the horizon. Fully prepared to ask forgiveness of his father for his sins against him, he was never given the opportunity. A word never left his lips, as his father, immediately upon seeing his son walking along the road, ran to him to embrace and kiss him. His son had returned and he completely disregarded the apology.

Overjoyed and weeping, the father calls to his servants to prepare a great feast in honor of his son's return, killing the fattened calf, the animal specially fed and kept for special occasions, as the main dish. Draped in the best robe his father possessed, a ring on his finger, and sandals upon his feet, the son was welcomed back as if he had committed no wrongdoing against his father. He who was once dead, was now alive. He who was once lost, was now found.

Overhearing the celebration from the fields, the older brother, the one who had remained faithful to their father; doing all he asked, adhering to every one of the father's commands, and never partaking of all the sins his brother had so feely committed, asked the servants gathering the wine and food for the party what the purpose of the celebration was. Carrying baskets of bread and fish, dates and pomegranates, and jugs of wines, one servant stopped to answer the question posed by the older brother,

"Your brother has returned, my lord. Your father commanded that a party be thrown in his honor and he has the killed the fattened calf to welcome him home."

Outraged at the thought of a party being held for his wicked little brother, the older son refuses to join in the festivities, remaining outside the house, unwilling to even enter the gate. Leaving the party, the father finds his older son outside the house and begs his son to come with him. The son scoffs at the invitation, recounting his obedience to his father all his life and yet never receiving any compensation or recognition for his righteous behavior. But when his brother returns, the one who had wasted their father's wealth and abandoned him for every worldly endeavor, he is granted every good thing the father could provide. With sympathy in his eyes, the father replies,

"Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found."

This parable describes so beautifully and so accurately the reality of our sinfulness before a holy and righteous God. In our pursuit of that which the world views to be valuable, worthwhile, or important, we rebel against God and turn our backs on Him, leaving His presence to follow the sinful inclinations of our hearts. We take the creation He has so freely given to us and use it in a way that was never intended, squandering everything we have been given on that which we believe will bring us happiness and satisfaction. In our abandonment of God we become the lost son, wandering in search of what our wicked hearts desire, refusing to turn around and realize only true satisfaction can be found in Christ. It is only in this state of unfulfilled expectations that we come to understand the true nature of the mud in which we lay, the utter hopelessness of a life spent wandering from God.

Filthy, tired, and hungry, we crawl back to God. We walk the long road of guilt, preparing apologies and confessions, overcome with sadness at what was lost when we turned our backs on God. We feel the need to try and get clean, but God loves us even when we're covered in mud. We're too distracted by our dirt to even see God running to meet us. Like a truck, grace meets our sin, our guilt, our doubts, our failures, and God is there to embrace us.

This is the picture of the gospel. God pursuing a people for Himself out of love, to show in our flaws, our insecurities, and our wickedness, the truly great power of His strength. It is through Christ that this power is best demonstrated, the willing sacrifice of God incarnate to cover the unrighteousness of humanity with the righteousness provided by His Son to those who follow after Him in obedience. When we who were once dead, we who were once lost, answer the call of Christ to follow Him, we are welcomed into the family of God, the opportunity to join in personal relationship with Him. Restoration and reconciliation are received by those in the family of God, their new identity; sons and daughters.

These posts are written by flawed people, people who don't have everything together, people who fail, people who are in need of grace. It is in Christ that we best see God's love on display; a love that sprints after us, a love that does not recognize the mud we were once covered in. It is through faith in Christ that we become sons and daughters of the King, casting off the old self to be united with Him in His death and resurrection.

In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King, no longer identified by how society or culture defines you, because all that matters is that He calls you His.