Another picture of God

One of my favorite parables that Jesus told is commonly called, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” It is only found in Luke chapter 15. Imagine a father with two sons. The youngest comes to his father and asking for his share of the inheritance. It was not totally uncommon, but it was frowned upon. Let us say this young man was 21 years of age. The father gives him his inheritance, and he skips town, going to a far-off country. The son discovered that if you throw wild parties you can be very popular. The money did not last nearly as long as expected. As the money ran out, the country experienced a severe famine that covered the land.

The son looked and looked for any kind of work, and finally found a job on a pig farm. His family heritage would have forbidden him from having anything to do with pigs. Then one day while feeding the pigs, he began to daydream about eating what he was tossing to the pigs.

“17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!’ 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate.” (Luke 15:17-23 ESV)

There is more to the parable, but I want to mention Rev. James W. Moore, an author and speaker, who used the parable of the Prodigal Son to tell a story of a painting that gives us another picture of God. There was a missionary in an isolated area in a southeast Asian country. He was struggling terribly to make a meaningful connection with the natives. They lived in a heavily dense jungle, it was a hard life, and the people did not exhibit much joy. After nearly a year, the missionary could only claim that he had mastered the language.

One day, he noticed a young man had incredible talent for painting. The idea came to him to have the native paint a picture depicting the scene of the Prodigal Son’s return. He read the parable to the artist; he explained its meaning. The artist reassured him he had the idea. Two weeks later he came back with the painting. The jungle looked perfect, the son had just the right expression of humility and regret; but the father had his arms folded and looked very stern. The missionary complimented him on many parts of the good work he did, but he questioned him if he thought the image of the father projected the idea of love. After talking at great length, the artist said he had it, he knew what to do. He would be back in two weeks,

Finally, the day came, and the artist presented his new painting. The jungle and the son were much like the first painting. The dramatic difference was in the portrayal of the father. This time the father is running down the path, his robe tucked into his belt and sashes blowing in the wind; and he is wearing one bright red shoe, and one bright blue shoe. The missionary was incredibly pleased but puzzled. Why the two different shoes. The artist explained that when the father was told his son was coming down the road, he imagined the father being so excited that as he dressed, he grabbed one red shoe and one blue shoe and did not bother to be slowed down to greet his lost son.

Picture in your mind, the open arms of God the Father running to hug and kiss you to welcome you home. He has been looking down the path anxious for your return. God loves you no matter what you have done. He is waiting for you to come to your senses and know that God will welcome you.

Grace and peace to you.

Doug Hasty4 Posts

Doug Hasty is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Sabetha.

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