The Prodigal God

For the past few weeks, we’ve focused on the three main characters in Jesus’ parable known as The Prodigal Son. Along the way, we’ve reconnected the story with its setting of finding lost things. We encountered the reason Jesus told the stories, which was as a rebuttal to a rebuke from some religious leaders. And, we also underlined the proper definition of “prodigal” as someone whose spending and life are lavish and wasteful. But while the focus of the parable was about the joy when the lost returns, it also reveals the lavish, abundant, and perhaps even prodigal love of God.

This revelation of God is revealed in all three of the “lost” parables. We see God’s love in the unrelenting search of a shepherd for one lost lamb out of a hundred. We see God’s persistent love in the woman carefully sweeping her dirt floor to find the precious lost coin. And we see God’s longing for restoration as the Father waits for his son’s return and the grace-filled forgiveness provided when the son does return.

It’s easy to be stingy with our love. We excel at only showing grace to those that meet certain standards. We write off those we deem to be unworthy, uncomfortable, or undesirable. We treat love as an investment, only giving love when we’ll get something in return. God isn’t like that. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39, NLT)

God’s love is also much larger than we can imagine. Paul prays, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:17–19, NLT) God’s love so large it is incomprehensible, and yet Christ-followers are invited and encouraged to dive in.

None of us deserve God’s love.  It can’t be bought or earned. It is only given to us by God’s grace. The question isn’t whether God loves us, but whether we will receive and welcome His love. Neither is God’s love fleeting; it is just as persistent as a shepherd seeking the lost lamb and the woman searching for her lost coin and the father longing for a lost son to return home.

Jesus’ point in all three of the lost things parables is exactly that – God’s love doesn’t stop. Jesus demonstrated God’s love. Luke records, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story:” (Luke 15:1–3, NLT) God’s love is prodigal, it is lavishly given. It almost seems wrong to say that, doesn’t it? And yet, it is true.

Dale Heinold
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