Jesus loved finding lost things, be it sheep or coins or even sons. (Luke 15:1-32) He always had a soft spot in his heart for those who had gotten a little turned around in their lives, which is a beautiful thing since all of us find ourselves in that position from time to time. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to identify the ones who are actually lost. Oh, maybe not in terms of sheep and coins, those are fairly obvious, but when it comes to sons it’s an altogether different story. In fact, the hardest ones to find are the ones who don’t think they are lost at all.
The younger son ventures off into a foreign land with his pockets full of inheritance money and his heart set on squandering it all on wild living. But eventually it all catches up with him and he comes to his senses, finding his way back to the father’s house where he is greeted with hugs and kisses, as well as shoes and a ring and a feast. Yet he is not the lost son; he is actually the found one. There’s another son in the story who is in desperate need of being found, only he doesn’t know it.
The lost son is the one who is still in his father’s house, yet still so far from away from experiencing his father’s love and affection. Just listen to what he says: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” Does that sound like someone who knows he is loved, or like someone who is trying desperately to earn something he’s always had? To me it sounds like someone who is working his ass off to try and win the approval and affection of a father who knows him better and loves him more fully than he could ever ask or imagine.
The younger brother returns home and is able to experience that love firsthand, but what about the older one? He has been at home all along, but has somehow missed the unconditional love and affection the father was continually offering him. What would it look like for him to return to the father?
We are not really told how the story ends for the older brother, which is probably intentional. It is an open invitation. Each of us is invited into the story to make that decision for ourselves. What does returning to the Father look like for you today? Will you return to him?
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