“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” — Luke 15:13
One of my most favorite passages in all of Scripture is found in Luke’s gospel. It is one of the many parables spoken by Jesus — “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Other names include “The Parable of Two Brothers,” “the Lost Son,” “the Forgiving Father” or my favorite, “The Parable of the Father’s Love.”
It is well-represented in many sermons on Father’s Day each year. The loving father anxiously awaiting the return of the son who has left him is an example of God the Father, who waits anxiously for us to return to Him. All of us stray from God at some point in our lives, but we can rest assured that when we come to our senses, as the prodigal son did, He is ready to forgive us. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
But what about the other side of the coin and the father’s discipline? We have no indication if the prodigal son was punished after the fattened-calf celebration. But that was not Jesus’s purpose in telling this parable. Elsewhere in Scripture we can find evidence that our Father demonstrates this love through discipline.
The writer of the book of Hebrews recognizes this and references Old Testament teaching on the subject: “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son'” (Hebrews 12:5-6). The writer later continues, “but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10b-11).
We have a Heavenly Father who loves us enough to forgive our sins. In addition, we have a Heavenly Father who loves us enough to discipline us so we may share His Holiness. May we cherish both aspects of Him.
— Loring Schultz
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