He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him

If you had to use only ten words to describe the whole message of Christianity, you would be hard pressed to do better than this single sentence from the parable of the prodigal son.

Like the father in the parable, God brought us into existence;   he has provided for us and given us his inheritance.   Straying sons?   Sadly, you don’t have to look far in the Bible for stories of God’s people drifting away from their Maker.   There’s Cain, the first murderer.   There’s the prophet Hosea’s wayward wife, who God said represented the unfaithfulness of Israel.   There’s Solomon, gifted with wisdom, who began worshipping false gods.   Even the people of Israel were carted off to exile after their hearts turned away from God.

Yet throughout history, no matter how far his people have wandered from him, God has been like the father in this parable:   always watching and waiting for them to take the first step back to him.   God doesn’t wait for us passively:   he is always seeking, searching, calling out to us, and offering us whatever grace we need to make the journey back.   Then he eagerly watches so that he can run to meet us when we do.

This parable also tells us that God loves us enough to respect our free will.   Like the father in the story, he doesn’t come chasing after us;   he doesn’t threaten us; he doesn’t command us, saying, “Get back here this instant!”   Rather, he gives us room to discover our sin and our neediness on our own.

The story of the prodigal son is not just the story of the gospel;   it’s the story of how we experience this message.   It’s the story of a prodigal finding the courage to face his sins and confess them.   It’s the story of a Father who can’t help but love and forgive his children.   And it’s the story of the healing and unity that come about when we decide to return home to the Lord.

Word Among Us