Psalm 107:1, 8, 17, 28
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, and His loyal love endures. 8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for His loyal love, and for the amazing things He has done for His people. 17 They acted like fools in their rebellious ways, and suffered because of their sins. 28 They cried out to the LORD in their distress; He delivered them from their troubles.”
The image of the prodigal son’s father anticipating his son’s return with open arms is such a picture of God’s heart toward His children. But what is often missed is that the rebellious child must return. Parents can long for their children to return, but if the child is still rebellious, then it would not be a complete picture of sweet repentance and restoration. Instead, it would become a dysfunctional relationship of enablement and abuse.
God is loyally loving His children when he permits consequences for their rebellious actions, but the child does not often recognize such love. Discipline is viewed as unloving, when it is actually a kindness to not allow sin to go unchecked. Blame is cast on the parent who was unreasonable to expect basic obedience, whether it be having to do chores, the expectation of telling the truth or not permitting the child to stay out all night. But when the child comes to his senses, as in the case of the prodigal son, it is a wonderful picture of repentance and the story of the Gospel – how God is willing to forgive all wayward children. Forgiveness hinges on that moment of confessing sins, though, and cannot be dished out just because the prodigal believes he or she deserves it.
The generation today has revolted against authority and is embittered at the suggestion that they should be accountable to anyone. It is not just this generation that has bred prodigals, though – we are all prodigals in our own right. Forgiveness and acceptance are much more pleasurable than living in sin, so what hinders the prodigal from returning? Deception, pride and loving our victim status. Bearing the outward attitude of rejection, despite leaving being our choice, we receive attention and pity. The original deception becomes truth if we feed on the praises of the enablers surrounding and flattering us. The only way out? Cry out to God for understanding and admit our wrongdoings. Don’t seek sympathy for something we deserve. Take responsibility for our actions – only then can the mind of Christ illuminate and reveal our true condition. Lastly, if we could for a moment contemplate how our actions have hurt our loving father, instead of how our actions have hurt ourselves, we would begin to walk in freedom.
Let us give thanks that God shows us our rebellious ways and punishes us – though He does not give us what our sins deserve. Loyal love is a love that keeps the unconditional love “on”, but does not permit an abuse of that love. For a child to accuse a parent because of consequences they must bear due to their own behavior is folly. God does not fall for it, either. But He does offer the sweetest peace, joy and love for those who have truly repented and not made excuses for their sin.
Lord, thank you for Your loyal love, which endures forever! You did not leave us in our sins, but made a way out, praise Your Name! Help all of us prodigals to wake up and see we are blessed beyond measure because of Your faithful love!