I recently watched a stage production called Ex-Factor by Boys Town Youthreach, an organisation that serves at-risk youth.
For the performers on the stage, the play was a platform for them to share their passions and personal stories in front of an audience. While some of them had made mistakes in life, many of them were also living out the painful consequences of decisions they weren’t responsible for.
In either case, I admired their bravery. To stand forward and bare one’s life is never easy, especially when all one has known is brokenness and pain.
I was especially touched when in the play, many of the actors publicly shared their desires to step out of their challenges towards dreams and aspirations. That made me realise that while brokenness is inevitable – living in it isn’t. And in this life, we are all prodigals in need of grace.
Because of Jesus’ beautiful exchange on the cross, though we still live in a world where brokenness abounds, we now have a choice not to live in it anymore.
When sin entered the world through the first man, fallenness swept into humanity. Joy was replaced with sorrow; pleasure by pain. Peace was displaced by worry, and man began to contest with God over the lordship of their lives.
Had Christ not come to rescue us, we would be eternally lost in darkness. But because of Jesus’ beautiful exchange on the cross, though we still live in a world where brokenness abounds, we now have a choice not to live in it anymore.
Because of Jesus, the prodigals can return Home.
TWO BROTHERS, TWO BROKEN ROADS
We all are born prodigals. Sin is in our DNA, and our every inclination is evil (Genesis 6:5). Like the younger son in the popular Biblical narrative The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), my heart is one that is prone to wander and leave the Lord I love.
“There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.” (Luke 11:12-13)
Like the younger son, I’ve tried to play God and strike it out on my own. I’ve “left home” countless times in pursuit of the world. I’ve tried to find satisfaction in living a life apart from God, but I’ve found that it does not satisfy.
But like his brother, the older son, I’ve tried to find validation in doing Christian things. I read my Bible, pray, serve in the worship team, attend and lead Bible studies … I’ve tried to find satisfaction in a life driven by my good decisions and taken pride in my definition of living better than most – but neither does this “better” way satisfy.
On both roads, I’ve been brought to a point where I’ve seen who I really am, and who my Father really is.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in.” (Luke 15:25-28)
I am a sinner wretched to the core, yet deeply loved and pursued by my Father, the King of Heaven.
The younger son took his first step toward home when he came to his senses and saw how utterly lost and helpless he was (Luke 15:17) . The lack of control we have over our lives is grace, for it shifts our finite focus off ourselves and toward our Father.
“And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” (Luke 11:14-16)
It also helps us to see the depravity of this world – how we would even exchange the comfort and providence of Home for a muddy and smelly pigsty.
On the road home, we step down from the throne of our lives and allow God His rightful place in our hearts. Once more we are God’s children and no longer world-pursuing rebels.
Like the younger son, my “pigsty” realisation (Luke 15:17-19) was that the world would never fully satisfy. I would only be satisfied with God’s affection. At the end of the day, I am still a prodigal daily in need of grace.
HOME RUNS TOWARDS US
Jesus was speaking about Himself as the Father when He shared The Parable of the Prodigal Son with the crowd. His relentless pursuit of undeserving sinners like us is reflected in the father’s physical act of running towards his son when he returned home.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 11:19-20)
God runs towards us when we return to Him.
The wayward son had brought disgrace to his family and village and according to Deuteronomy 21:18-21, he could have been stoned to death. But in running to him and embracing him – his father not just welcomed him home, but pardoned him for his rebellion.
What a beautiful picture of God’s pardoning of our sin because of Jesus’ work on the Cross. More than just salvation from eternal separation, Jesus’ death and resurrection bestowed on us once again our true identity as the Father’s sons and daughters.
“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 11:21-24)
In the Father’s arms, brokenness is embraced, protected and mended by grace. The day Jesus died for us, grace and love triumphed over brokenness, and victory over sin was final. His death and resurrection paved the road for us to return home, and a celebratory homecoming is promised for anyone who returns.
The comfort and reassurance of the prodigal account lies in the fact that the father is always home.
The road home is not just a one-off trip that we take after accepting Christ. It is a daily one, because along this faith journey there will still be many times we fall away from God, whether wilfully or not.
In this daily journey of leaving and returning to the Father, we mustn’t be discouraged. Because the comfort and reassurance of the prodigal account lies not in the son’s realisation of his waywardness or his wise decision to want to return home.
It lies in in the fact that the father is always home.
There will never be a moment where our knock on His door is met with condemning silence. Instead, our faithful Father is always standing at the porch, waiting in anticipation for the return of His beloved.