You have probably heard of the Prodigal son. This is arguably the most popular redemption story in the history of Western culture. The parable of the "Prodigal Son" (also known in some circles as the "Parable of the Two Brothers") exists to deconstruct and to reconstruct our Christian worldview. Truth be told, the way that we view God will dictate how we handle the rest of our lives. If we see the Father as an unloving disciplinarian that always wants us to do better before He will accept us, then we will be more prone to anxiety and less prone to worshiping God freely. On the other hand if we choose to view God as a giant teddy bear who embraces the "I'm okay, you're okay" attitude without the slightest regard towards our personal holiness, then we will sin freely without fear of divine discipline. Whether we would like to admit or not, our view of God affects the ways that we manage our relationships with others.
As Jesus spoke to religious leaders and sinners, Jesus' point was that both groups see God the Father accurately. He is a God of grace that loves us and desires to be reconciled to us.
As Jesus continues to tell this beautiful story, you can almost see the sinners and outcasts smile as they hear how the father (representing God the Father) runs to accept his son that has sinned so extravagantly. Their minds were racing. "If the father would accept his own prodigal son, who recognized his sin and returned home, then maybe... just maybe God the Father would accept me." You can also hear the Pharisees complain and murmur when they realize that Jesus is saying that they are just like the elder brother, who thought that God should honor him because he was religious.
However, the beauty of this parable is that the Father pursued both brothers: the rebellious and the religious. The father freely ran to the prodigal that tried to save himself by exploring pleasure in a far off land and the brother that tried to save himself through keeping a moral code.
God desires to save us regardless of what side of the spectrum we find ourselves. God can save us because ultimately Jesus was the perfect son. He hung out with the religious, but didn't sin and he dined with sinners and wasn't corrupted. He lived his life perfectly and unlike the other two brothers, Jesus loved the Father completely. However, this perfect son died on a cross to take the burden of the rebellious and the religious. He died to take our punishment in order to declare us righteous before the Father. The Father, who exists in holiness, accepts us, because Jesus was punished in our place (For more on this, listen to this podcast from a recent sermon that I preached).
Now, what should we do with this parable? What should we do with this new found understanding of God's love? First, when we finally understand that God the Father loves us unconditionally, we will desire to seek and save the lost. Had the elder brother understood that love, he wouldn't have stayed home trying to earn "behavior points" with his dad, he would have combed the desert looking for his brother, so that he could bring him back to his father. Understanding the Grace of God will motivate us to see that other people experience that same Grace as well.
Jesus didn't just seek out those that looked like him or had common interests. Luke 19:10 says that the "the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." He met with priests and prostitutes, criminals and church goers, the prodigal and the elder brother. Jesus desires that victims of trafficking as well as pimps be made right with himself. We can find out how we view the Father by who we are seeking. Are we seeking to introduce those that are lost to the Father's love?