compassionate father

We have been looking  in Luke 15 this week about the Parable of the Lost Son. The story, also known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, involves a man and his two sons. The younger of the two decided that he wanted his inheritance early and left home to go to a nearby country. As one might expect, he didn’t use his money wisely and fell on hard times. Realizing that the people who worked for his father lived a better life than he did, he came to his senses and returned home. His father accepted him with open arms and celebrated the return of his lost son. The older brother who stayed faithfully with his father became angry that the father had accepted the lost son back so readily and was willing to even call him his brother again.

The great thing about this parable is that no matter how we look at this parable we can see ourselves. Earlier we looked at the prodigal son and the older son. When we look at this story, the father is really representing God the Father. As husbands and fathers, he is the one we should model ourselves after in this parable.

When we evaluate the Lost Son parable, we can agree that both sons really did not have a relationship with the father. In reality, they both were consumed in different ways with only their father’s wealth. The main difference between the two sons was that one was willing to wait until the father died to try to get “his” stuff. This parable is probably not going to be renamed as the “Father’s Guide to Parenting” anytime real soon based on the relationship he had with his sons.

The father is first mentioned in Luke 15:12. He is asked by his youngest son for his inheritance and he gives it to him. Back during that time, the oldest son would get a double portion of the inheritance over the other sons, so we might expect that the lost son got one third of his father’s estate. This was highly unusual for a father to grant a son’s inheritance before his death.

We next see the father in Luke 15:20. At this point, the lost son had wasted all of his inheritance, came to his senses, and had headed back to beg to be a servant for his father. The father saw him “a long way off, was filled with compassion for him, and ran to his son.” This is a great contrast to the two sons in that this shows the father’s love for the son. One might take that for him to spot him “a long way off” that he longed for him to be back in his fellowship again and was waiting on his return. Secondly, compassion is a pretty strong emotion for a man and he was filled with this emotion immediately. Lastly, I have seen Bible scholars discuss recently that it would have been extremely out of character for a wealthy estate owner to run toward anything. Everything usually would involve everything coming to him. He had servants that he could have sent to greet his son, but his compassion was so great that he ran to meet him.

Acceptance

The lost son at this point admits his sin to his father. In Luke 15:22, the father calls for the servants to put the son in the best robe, a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet. This action showed that the father had accepted him and restored his position. Acceptance here is receiving someone even with their baggage. The father is saying that he thinks his son is valuable enough to bring back into the family.

How are we when it comes to acceptance? Do we hold on to some way our wife may have hurt us and lose sight of accepting them? What about one of our kids whether young or old? Are we willing to restore their position in our relationship to them? The Bible says that we should “accept one another as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God.”

Forgiveness

The father shows unbelievable forgiveness to the son here. By forgiving him he has set him free from his sin against him. Forgiveness also means that we are to get rid of resentment, indignation, and anger. How many times do we offer up forgiveness for some offence against us only to hold on to some amount of resentment, indignation, or anger? It is extremely difficult to forgive and leave the judgment in God’s hands. The Bible says “forgive each other just as Christ forgave you.”

Joy/Compassion

The father was “filled with compassion” for his son when he saw him coming home. This is an emotion that goes beyond just being happy to being consumed with joy, delight, and contentment. We can think back to the day when we got married or when our children were born and how deeply rooted that joy and compassion we had on that day. Do we still have that fire living inside for our spouse or kids?

Mark Gredler has some great things to say about the Prodigal Son story when looking at compassion:

The key is in the reaction of the father compared to the reaction of the older son.  When the father saw his younger son returning, the father “was filled with compassion.”  When a servant told the older son about the return of his brother and the party, the older son “became angry.”  Here I see the two possible reactions I can choose to have with anyone I have a relationship with, especially my wife – compassion or anger.  I find it even easier to choose anger when I exercise my anger by withdrawing.  If I don’t raise my voice or yell, my problem obviously isn’t anger, right?

I’ve talked about the fact that I want to be one flesh with my wife, not just physically, but also in communication, finances, parenting, and honesty.  The first in my list is communication. So when I feel my wife has punched me in the gut with an email, or hit me below the belt, can I pause to consciously choose how I will react, and choose compassion?  Or will I react with anger, not anger as in yelling or raising my voice, but anger in saying “if you want more x, y, z, you have to give a little to get a little.”  Do I choose to keep score of who I think takes the first step more often, or do I do what is right in compassion, making the first move as often as needed? 

Pursuit

In Luke 15:28, we find that older brother is angry and refused to go to the feast. The father takes another uncharacteristic step here and “went out and pleaded with him.” We never find out if this worked for the father to get his son to come to the feast in this story. I am totally alright when I need some time to collect my thoughts being totally alone. On the other hand, my wife will go someplace alone to collect her thoughts and then she wants me to come find her. Even though she removed herself from the discussion, when I go and find her she knows that I still love her. She knows that it is safe and that I will accept her. This is a great example of leadership by this father to go and plead with his older son to be a part of the celebration.

Conclusion

The Parable of the Lost Son ends with the father explaining to the older son that “everything I have is yours.” As a husband and father, this is our goal. I try to talk often here about how it is our responsibility to die to self daily. Jesus gave us His all and we are to be like Him. It is unbelievably hard to live a life where you die to self on a daily basis. Our egos and selfishness attack us at every turn on this journey. We have hardly scratched the surface on all of the possible themes that can be found in this parable. If you take nothing more from this post, I hope you look at something this week with a heart filled with compassion like the father.