How God Loves You
How God Loves You
It's one of the most talked about parables in the Bible. Recently, it really struck me.
There's two sons -- the younger son and the older son. The younger son goes to his father and asks for his inheritance early, and the father gives it to him. This seems to similar to the way that, sometimes, God allows us to enjoy a good life without him for a time -- but we can't, because the ability to live life at all comes from what God has given us -- if we don't have God, our lives will diminish. Thus, eventually, the son comes to ruin. The interesting thing is that the father in the parable had nothing to do with the son coming to ruin. He simply gave the son his inheritance, just as God gives us our lives with all its blessings. Then the son went and squandered it. He didn't want to wait for the inheritance his father promised any more than many may want to wait for Christ's second coming. He was thinking about the here and now and about being independent. And the father gave him what he wanted and let him have his fun. Sometimes, God may allow us to do the same thing.
Then he squanders everything God gave him, as we squander our lives when we live without God. Broken, he comes back to God. He's ready to bargain. He's not ready to be a "super child" when he comes back. He's ready to take the lowest place.
I think I can relate to him, a bit. Sometimes I tend to think that God, who sees the real me, may be a bit grudging in taking me back. Like I have to bargain. Like if I give him the right sob story, he might forgive me, but he'll look carefully at my repentance, try to weigh the odds, ponder for a few hours, and then, finally, relent a bit grudgingly with a slight roll of his eyes as he says, "Just make sure you don't do it again." Before someone jumps on me, I know the previous sentence may not be completely theologically correct. But I feel like that sometimes. As if God, is, well...God. He's got a universe to run, and here I am messing it up. There are over 5 billion other people on this tiny speck, with tons of other wildlife and a big, wide universe. Yeah, he'll forgive me -- but that's his job, and he looks at me with a weary "again?" as he grudgingly signs the papers for the zillionth time.
When I look at God that way, it's tempting to look at other people that way. A.W. Tozer said the most important thing about us is what we think about God. I think that's true. So if I think God forgives a bit grudgingly, that's how I'll forgive others.
So when when the son came back to his Dad he had his story all straight, like we have our prayers all straight and figured out. And the Dad doesn't sit there and think about it. He is sorry for him. He has compassion on him.
He's not the courtroom judge who looks down from his greater and mighty throne and ponders the request, serious-faced and wishing he were really somewhere else. He's a Dad who loves his son infinitely more than any other Dad in the world, and he's beside himself with compassion for his son and joy at his return.
And if you think about it, that makes sense. Love comes from God. Those warm feelings you get when you look at your kid or your wife or your parents or a close friend are feelings put there so that you can know, in miniscule, the kind of love God has for you.
God is not a cosmic finger-wagger. He really, really cares about the real me. And I don't have to make up a story or pretend like I'm better than I am in front of Him. He loves the real me.
Okay, here's the other thing:
When the older son gets jealous of the younger son, the father takes him aside. He says that the older son tried to earn his father's goodwill. The father was saying his life wasn't about earning more than his brother earned -- it was about loving his brother. The father-son relationship wasn't about earning points good deeds or spirituality or church attendance and comparing your earnings with other people. It was about love.
A life of love is far more fruitful than a life in which you are constantly trying to measure your own merits against another. The measure of merits turns into troublesome jealousy, quarrels, envy, division, arrogance, and the feeling that you always have to appear to be someone you are not (since no one's perfect -- but that doesn't mean it's not impossible to look like you are more "perfect" than others). Love frees us to be honest, to have compassion for each other, to not always seek first place, and to genuinely care.
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