Am I a Cherished Son?
Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP
I want what the prodigal son got. Remember the story Jesus told about the son who asked for his inheritance early? He is given what he asks for, and off he goes.
Apparently, news of how he wasted his inheritance and sank to the deepest levels of immoral behavior gets back to his family. His brother is disgusted with the news, and his father patiently and lovingly waits for his desired return. He wants his son to come back.
Not only does he want him back, he is willing to take him back with no strings attached. The lost and confused son doesn’t know this. When he considers returning home, he assumes that he will be lucky if his father will just allow him to work as a slave or hired hand. His brother doesn’t know the father’s intentions either, or he surely would have tried to convince him to “ hold the prodigal accountable” in some way.
Two out of the three characters in this story assumed a response of “justice” from the father for the selfish, impulsive, and immoral behavior of the son who left his family. He purposely and knowingly made bad choices. Shouldn’t he have to experience some consequences for what he did?
The term “prodigal” in the dictionary is defined as- “rashly or wastefully extravagant.” Other equivalent terms found in a thesaurus include- “excessive, squandering, and reckless.”
We are great wasters of time and opportunity. Why does it take a terminal illness of our own or of a loved one before we purposefully live, and intentionally love those around us?
We are the prodigal at times. We are also the resentful and judgmental brother at times. We do not believe we and others deserve a second chance from God. We believe if we do make it to Heaven, it will be by the skin of our teeth.
When we decide to follow Jesus, and then begin to fail in our behavior, sometimes we don’t ever “come home.” We feel such shame and hopelessness, we genuinely believe we don’t deserve another chance.
Or, maybe we do come “home,” but we believe ourselves to be scum-of-the-earth and undeserving of a close relationship with God where we talk intimately with Him and enjoy intimate responses from Him.
Jesus came to earth for many reasons. One of those reasons was to show us what God is really like. He modeled the loving, forgiving, and compassionate care of God. And, He taught us about it in the stories He told.
They say that we oftentimes base our view of God on the type of relationship we have with the father we grow up with. Even if our father did a reasonably good job of raising us, and our relationship with him was a good one, God does it better.
In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus is telling those who will listen that God is just like the father in the story. He knows what we do, and He wants us anyway- not as shame-filled servants, but as fully forgiven, accepted, and valued “kids” that He wants to spend time with.
Are their consequences for our bad choices? Of course there are. The natural consequences for our bad choices are punishment enough, aren’t they? For instance, when we lose the trust of those closest to us as a result of lying to them or treating them disrespectfully, we are experiencing the awful, yet natural consequences of our bad choices.
God’s love and desire for us is about Him, not about us. It is His choice to love and value us in spite of our wasteful, reckless, and squandering behaviors. He just wants us to come home.