When my son was two years old he came home from Sunday School and taught me his lesson. He picked up a Bible, ran his fingers across the pages and said God loves me, God loves me. I responded Youre right, God loves you. Did your Sunday School teacher teach you that? He nodded, Yes. If you grew up in church, most likely the first song you ever learned was Jesus Loves Me.
If you are like me, you know that Jesus loves you. You could probably quote John 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. But, do you know, actually comprehend how much Jesus loves you?
Isaiah 30:18 says; Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. God longs to be gracious to you and He is waiting to have compassion on you! When was the last time you felt Gods compassion? If you cant think of a time, its not because He isnt waiting to show you His compassion.
Jesus pictured the way God longs and waits for us in a parable He told while he walked this earth. Luke is the only gospel writer who recorded it for us. In Luke 15:11-32, we find The Parable of the Lost Son. You may remember the story. It is about a father who had two sons. His younger son came to the father and asked for his inheritance. This was an absurd and disrespectful request. It revealed the sons total irreverence for the father. It was if the son had come to the father and said I wish you were dead, so I could have my inheritance, I dont want to wait for it. Amazingly the father granted the request. The son went off and squandered the money given to him in wild living, further insult to his father.
After the money ran out, the son had to get a job. This Jewish boy ended up feeding pigs, of all things. When he found himself hungering for the pigs food, he came to his senses. He realized that if he were a servant in his fathers household, he would receive better treatment. He made a plan to return home and ask his father to forgive him and make him a servant.
The gospel records that when that son was a long way off the father saw him, had compassion for him, and ran out to meet his prodigal son. Their meeting must have blown the younger son away, for he hardly had time to repent before his father was reinstating him as son. He had a ring on his finger, coat on his back, and party planned to feed him, sooner than he could ask to be a servant.
Henri Nouwen reflected on this young sons experience. Leaving home is, then, much more than a historical event bound to time and place. It is a denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God with every part of my being, that God holds me safe in an eternal embrace, that I am indeed carved in the palms of Gods hands and hidden in their shadows. Leaving home means ignoring the truth that God has fashioned me in secret, molded me in the depths of the earth and knitted me together in my mothers womb. Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one. (Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (Doubleday: New York, 1992), p. 35).
With such joy and compassion, you would think nothing would draw this father from a party. Only one event could. When the elder son arrived and refused to come in, the compassionate, full of grace father went out to that son too. This story could also be called The Parable of the Two Lost Sons, for the elder son was not at home in the fathers love, although he never left. Henri Nouwen writes; Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. My resentment is not something that can be easily distinguished and dealt with rationally. p. 70)
In this story the father is longing to be gracious, and waiting to show compassion to both of his sons. One responds to the fathers love, the other stays out in the cold. Where are you? I pray the same prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians for you this week: I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)