When we accept Christ into our lives as Savior and Lord, he gives us certain attributes that reflect
his character. He lives within us and we should reflect him to the world around us. These attributes are often called the “fruits of the Spirit”. We cannot exhibit these fruits in their truest sense without the help of the Holy Spirit. Our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control comes only through God so that people recognize Him when we exhibit these characteristics. When people around us experience these fruits, they experience Him. And it is no ordinary occurrence. It is an uncommon encounter with God Himself.
An Uncommon Love
Luke 15:11-32 – The Prodigal Son
Sometimes I think I am beginning to understand the depths of God’s love when I stop and watch my children. Sometimes I see glimpses of myself in them…in their laughter, a facial expression, maybe even in a stubborn gesture or snide remark. When I see these things, I am reminded that they are a little part of me- good, bad, or ugly. One thing I have learned in this journey of parenthood is that whether they give me the bear hug or the eye roll, my love for them never changes.
I can imagine that the father of the prodigal son felt the same. He is a parent. I am sure he cradled and fed his son. Like lots of other fathers, he probably taught his son how to fish, or milk the cows, or plant gardens. Maybe there were even conversations about that pretty girl who lived in the village near them. I am sure that this father, too, may have even seen his own smile in his son’s bucktoothed grin. He probably dished out his fair share of spankings as well, but I know that this father loved his son. This is evidential in the story that Jesus shares with us.
I know it must have been difficult for this father to hear his son ask for an inheritance. Now, it would have been within his rights to do this, but it was not a loving thing to do. In other words, he might as well have said that he wished his father were dead. Remarkably, this dad didn’t give his son a lecture on financial responsibility. He didn’t tell his son to get a job and work for his own estate. He didn’t even give him a guilt trip for asking. He simply and patiently gave him what he asked for. I wonder, in that moment, did he catch a glimpse of himself? Did he hope his son would make the same decisions he made and invest that money into building his own estate?
Unfortunately, the son ends up making the wrong decisions and quickly loses all his money. Who knows what he spends it on but it is apparent that he had nothing to show for it. He ends up in a city far from home in the middle of a severe famine, feeding pigs. Not only is he trudging around in the mud with pigs, but he finds himself looking at the food the pigs are given and wishing he could eat some! How far do you have to sink to find pigs that are better off than you? And the worst part of all? He had everything he ever needed in his father’s house but he chose to leave it all behind.
I love the ending to this story. Jesus tells us that the father sees his son coming from a long way off. This means the father was waiting and watching for his son to come back home. I can imagine this father pacing back and forth on their porch every day, as he looked down the road hoping and praying with anticipation that his son would return. That day finally came. What that father does is uncommon. He doesn’t wait for the son to come cowering into the house, guilt ridden and shameful. He doesn’t even ask if the son has any money left or what he spent it on. He lovingly throws his arms around his neck and places a kiss on his dirty cheek. But he doesn’t stop there. He holds a lavish feast and celebrates his son’s homecoming without hesitation or a single thought of the expense this son has already cost him.
I wonder, does God ever see himself in us? Does he ever reach down and hold our hands like we do with our little ones? I see him looking down at me and discovering each new gray hair on my head as it grows in. Does he ever hear our laughter and remember the day he created it? I think God gives us the love we have for our children to help us see the kind of true, unconditional love He has for us. He calls us His children because there is no amount of good or bad that will ever change the amount of love He has for us. It is an infinite supply. It can never be tarnished, dimmed, or put out. He holds no record of wrongs. He isn’t easily angered. He is always kind. He is just like the father of the prodigal son. I imagine that he sometimes sees a little of himself in us, hoping that it’s His DNA that others will recognize. In those moments when we walk away from Him and turn toward the open road to take what we want from life, He still loves us. He is always there, waiting with open arms, ready to forgive. When we turn back towards home to our Father, we experience an uncommon encounter with love.