“Quiz us on our Bible story,” our eldest exclaimed.
Each night our boys cuddle on their bunks and watch an episode of “Superbook.” As of lately, upon finishing, they rush in to find my husband and me, so we can discuss the story for that evening. I was especially excited because they picked one of my favorite parables—The Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.
After some general questions regarding the details of the story, Brian cut to the heart of things.
“What was the message of this parable?”
Axel confidently responded, “Obedience!” ” The son should have just obeyed his father.” A typical response for the oldest child.
Being the oldest child myself, I can relate to my eldest’s response. Having struggled with striving and proving my worth to others, myself, and even my Heavenly Father, for a lot of my life, I knew I couldn’t let his erroneous response go.
With my eyes spilling tears faster than I could respond, I cupped Axel’s face in my hands and looked him straight in his big blue eyes. “Axel, you are right, God wants us to obey Him because He loves us. But this isn’t what this story is about.”
“This parable is about the father’s love. This story was told to illustrate our Heavenly Father’s love for us.”
Tears began to swallow my tender-hearted son’s face. With much quivering in his little voice, he said, “Wow. God loves us so much. Even when we don’t obey or do the right stuff.”
He sure does.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be your son. But the father said to his servants ‘Quick! Let’s celebrate. For this son of mine was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:20).
I scooped that boy onto my lap as we cried tears of complete understanding for one another. It’s easy for us firstborn’s who get caught up in doing and achieving to forget that the Father loved us first. He doesn’t wait to run after us until we have it all together, have something to offer, or have a shiny resume. He runs to us in our mess. He throws us a party when we are still covered in the stench of sin.
It’s important to remember Jesus’ audience, as he told this parable, were the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Fellow church people, may we not forget this is the gospel. Period. God isn’t in the business of behavior modification, and neither should we as Jesus followers. He is in relentless pursuit after the hearts of his creation. May this story permeate every part of us as we encounter those around us. May we live as loved children of God.
For those who may have stumbled upon this and don’t know Jesus. Or maybe you aren’t interested. Perhaps you tried the whole ‘God’ and church thing but decided this isn’t for you.
If you’re waiting until you’ve cleaned up a bit to walk into a church…this is for you. You don’t need to wait until you are sober. You don’t need to wait until you stop having sex with your boyfriend. You don’t need to wait until you stop doubting. You don’t need to wait until you start reading your Bible. You don’t need to wait until you stop questioning God.
Just whisper his name in your wondering in the dark of the night. Call out to Him hungover. Ask Him to make Himself known in your questioning.
He won’t wait another second. He will come running. He will clothe you in his love. He will embrace you with his grace.
This is love.
If you are reading this and do not have a relationship with Jesus, I’m so glad you stumbled upon this post. I would love to talk to you more about Jesus. Feel free to email me at [email protected].
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on erikaopperman.com.
Featured Image by Pôppy Paulsen