Our Forgiving Father

One more thought as Father’s Day comes to a close:

And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. “And he said to him, Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.”

But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”

And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

– Luke 15:21-32

When we read the story of the prodigal son, we may see ourselves in either of the sons’ shoes. We may know of the sorrow associated with separating ourselves from God, or we might now the self-righteousness of the faithful son. One abandoned his father, and the other remained loyal. Yet both wronged their father. The prodigal’s sin is evident – wasting an inheritance, immoral living, outright defiance of his father’s expectations. The second son’s sin is much more subtle – that of jealosy and hatred toward his brother and, in turn, an unloving attitude toward the father he accuses of being unjust.

See how the father deals with both, though. He celebrates the return of his lost son. Despite the weeks or months of rebellion, he rejoices to see that son return. Great challenges will await the family as they strive to reknit relationships. The son’s return may even create some financial burdens, some additional sacrifices on the part of the father, but he is still glad to see the boy. His love and concern for his lost son – and his joy over that son’s restoration – outweighs anything else.

Look at the father’s conversation with the older son, the one who grows bitter and resentful over the attention showered upon his returning brother. Does the father rebuke him for his attitude? Does the father make a point of his ingratitude, his misplaced priorities, his almost whining appeal for a party of his own? On the contrary, the father commends his older son for his years of faithfulness; he rassures the son of the confidence he has in the older boy. He takes a discouraging situation and turns it into opportunity for edification.

In all of this, the father loves his sons equally and without reserve, regardless of the good or bad choices in their past. What matters is that they are faithful now. And this is the same mercy and forgiveness our Heavenly Father gives to us. If pride and self-righteousness have overtaken us and have caused us to be filled with bitterness and animosity, He can lift us up. If we have wasted a portion of our lives, He can wash us clean and help us leave all of that behind us. He is forgiving beyond measure. He is a Father whose love never runs out.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– I John 1:9