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God’s unconditional love – revisited

July 23, 2013

“As he spoke my spirit climbed into the sky.

I bid it to return to hear your wonderous stories. I had to hear your wonderous stories” – Wonderous stories – Yes (From the album “Going for the one”)

“Nobody knows you – when you’re down and out

In your pocket – not one penny, and as for friends you don’t have any” Nobody knows you when you’re down and out – Eric Clapton (from the album “Unplugged”)


People followed Jesus for many reasons. There were those times when Jesus did the most fantastic miracles – turning water into wine, healing the sick, even raising the dead. There was his teaching – showing a new way of living. There were the times that he told the religious leaders what he thought of them – that must have been great for people to watch! Life around Jesus was never predictable.

And then there were his stories. Parables we call them. Stories with a meaning. People who came to the rescue of their sworn enemies, , farmers sowing their seed with mixed results, but perhaps the most well-known of all  a story of a young man whose life went completely wrong, but then he came back. He is usually called the prodigal son – the lost son. Lost but found again.

In the story Jesus told of how a man had 2 sons, and the younger one had a plan. He knew his father was rich and one day half of all he had would be his. But he couldn’t wait. He wanted the wealth now. In a real sense he couldn’t wait for his father to die. Maybe surprisingly to us Dad says yes. And the boy disappears off to the big city with investments, big credit card limits and plenty of ready cash. Time for a young man to start living.

And so he lived. Suddenly he was Mr Popular – surrounded by friends. And he spent. And he drank. And he womanised. And he wasted. And he ran out. And like the words of the song – he found to be true “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out”. He had no money, and the last thing he could do was go back to Dad after all he had done.  So a job working with pigs meant that if nothing else he had something to eat. Pig food!

Finally Jesus tells his listeners, the young man gets his mind together. The only way is to go home, to say sorry and ask for a servant job in the house. Even that is better than this.

And so he sets off down the road with a carefully rehearsed speech. I’ve broken God’s rules. I’ve done you wrong, I don’t even deserve to be called your son. Let me be a servant. Over and over he went through this is his mind. Knocking the door, asking a servant if the master is at home. And then would he see him.

Jesus tells us that the man was waiting. In fact he had looked out day after day hoping to find his son returning. While the son feared the meeting, the father wanted nothing more.

Firstly the father threw his arms around this unfamiliar looking son in rags, who smelt like a pig sty. And then he cleared his throat and started his speech. And what does the father do? He completely ignores him. “Father I’m a sinner”. “Son, I don’t want to hear it!”

“Yes but I’m not worthy”. “Someone go and get the best party clothes for my son please!” “But Father… “and get the roast on as well please. This son of mine was lost but now he’s found”

Can you believe it? That well-rehearsed speech and he didn’t even get the chance to finish it! The father had only one thing in his mind – his son who he loved was back – alive. Party time.

The father of Jesus’ story represents his own father. He’s talking about the way that God loves us. Did you ever think that God loves you like this? For many people God’s love has to be earned. We have to do something to get in his good books. If we do enough good things he will accept us. God is not easily pleased. We’ve got to earn it.

But the radical thing in this story is the son does nothing. The only thing he does is turn around and go back home.

So perhaps we might think we have to say a prayer. We have to say a set pattern of words. If I can say the right things God will accept me. If I raise my hand or repeat a prayer after the preacher, or get out of my seat and walk to the front. Now there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

But the amazing truth in this story is that God doesn’t want any of that. He just wants you. Back. Home. With him. He loves us – he forgives us – all we need to do is come back to him.

Bill Hybels once at the end of a dinner party was getting on his boat to go home, when his host asked him to sum up the Christian good news. As the boat was about to move off he quickly calculated he had about 30 seconds to get his message across.

The difference he said between Religion and Christianity is “Do v Done”. Religion is about following lists of rules and what we can do to be good enough for God. But no one can ever do enough.

Christianity on the other hand is about what God has done for us. Doing what we couldn’t do. Sending his son Jesus to die for us, for all the wrong that we have done.

So the life that Jesus offers is a gift. What will you do today? Keep on doing? Or reach out and receive God’s generous gift?



From → Christianity

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