I love it when this happens. I am reading a familiar passage in the Bible and suddenly something lights up, like a light bulb, and I see something I hadn't before, a get a new understanding of those words. That happened this morning in this week's Bible lesson about Everlasting Punishment. Wha this lesson is teaching us is that God does not condemn, judge and punish, He forgives. And so should we.
In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 15, Jesus is teaching and he tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What an amazing example of how God is ever watching us and just waiting for us to turn back to Him, for us to recognize that we have always been His beloved child, even when we have turned away from good. I love to notice who Jesus is speaking to, and in this case he tells this story to illustrate a point for the Pharisees and scribes who are murmuring because he chooses to welcome the publicans and sinners who have been drawn to him.
What was illumined this morning is the part of the story where the young man, having insisted on taking the money he would have had when his father died and then squandering it, has now been reduced to begging for work. Instead of going home, he becomes a servant to someone living in that place and is sent into the fields to feed swine. What could be more demeaning to a Jew who abhors swine to have to care for them. But this appears to be when he 'hits bottom' and sees the level to which he has allowed his life to sink. He looks at what he is doing. The only food available to him now is the husks of the carob tree given to the swine. This is something that would only be eaten by the poorest people. He suddenly realizes that in that place where he has chosen to remain no man is giving him anything.
There may be a point in your life when you find yourself in what appears to be this same condition. You have no job or income, your so-called friends treat you in the most demeaning way. You are no longer seen as an equal. No man gave unto him. No one offered comfort, advice, sympathy, compassion, a job that offered self-respect. No man gave him hope of returning to his former status.
In the parable, he suddenly comes to himself and realizes that his father's servants are treated better than this and he decides to leave this place and these people and go home. He is willing to swallow his pride, and not those carob husks. He will go back and ask for forgiveness. When he is on his way back, his father, who has been watching tirelessly for him, sees him and runs to meet him. He is embraced and welcomed with a kiss. No lectures, no I-told-you-so. He is lifted up and clothed in his former clothing, restored in his own eyes to his rightful place. He was never less than that in his father's eyes. We are never less than that in God's eyes either. He is always ready to show us who we have been all along.
What lies are you swallowing about your life? What atmosphere have you chosen to surround yourself? What are you relying on? Have you believed you are being punished for your choices? Come to yourself. Remember who you are and who you have always been. Go home. Your Father is waiting with open arms.