Often, people ask me what the first place is in the bible that I direct people to if they are clearly not a christian, but are seeking with various different questions.
At first, I thought maybe John 3:16 would be appropriate, as it explains very clearly how one must gain salvation by believing in the son, Jesus Christ, and accepting him as your Lord and savior.
The more however I thought about it, I realized that at the end of the day, some people may not understand this concept if they have not previously been involved much in the christian faith. So what to do?
Finally, I came up with the idea to gently explain the story of the prodigal son, or as some call it, “The Lost son.”
For those who don’t know much about this, let me explain.
Jesus was talking to Peter, James, and John. Isn’t it interesting how they are usually the ones who are always with Jesus? Jesus tells a story of a man who is the son of a father.
This man, one day, comes to his father asking for all the father’s money… basically, his entire inheritance.
You can imagine how hurt this must have made the father, though we really don’t know his reaction at first; the bible doesn’t disclose that information.
What we do however know is that the father accepts the request, and gives his son the money.
So, OK, pause. Let’s take a moment and reflect on this. You’re a man with a child. This child comes to you one day, totally out of the blue sky and asks you for all your money. You already have told your son, “I love you so much, I’d give you anything in the world to make you happy.” So naturally, what would you do? Do you not most likely trust your son? Most likely, you’d oblige.
Well, that’s exactly what the dad did in this parable spoken by Jesus. He gave his son all the money he had; he kept none to himself! Are you seeing the connection here yet? In other words, the dad sacrificed everything he had. He gave everything.
Now, fast forward a short period of time. This son goes out of the land, spends all the money… every single penny of it, very foolishly.
Now, a famine overtakes the land. People are hungry, resources are limited. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that even back in those times, resources took money to own. You want property, money needed. You want food? Usually, money needed. OK, you may get a good samaritan along the way who freely helps you, don’t get me wrong, but I’m saying usually, key word, it took money. – Indulge me here, and hear me out.
Needless to say, the son in this story had blown it all. I mean, epicly! He misused all the money, and now couldn’t afford anything when he urgently needed it. The son was overwhelmed with guilt and shame. He had planned this big speech to give to his father.
So, the son goes back to his father, and gets ready to tell him: “Father, I’ve wronged you terribly! I’ve sinned against thee. I am unworthy to be called your son…” etc.
Now before reading further, if you’re this father, what would you be tempted to do. Remember here, you gave your son say, half a million dollars, let’s just say for sake of example. That’s a wappin’ lot of múla! My guess is, you’d be pretty irritated, or at the very least, you’d probably be quite hurt, wouldn’t you? I know I sure would be. I mean, let’s just be very real here with each other.
Instead however, this father opens up his arms wide, even before the son gets close enough to audibly be heard most likely by his father even if shouting at the top of his lungs. But, and this is the huge “but” that I want you the reader to see here that is so beautiful! With open arms, the father doesn’t demand any explanation, no speech… nothing. Instead, he draws the son in close into his loving arms, “Oh son! Oh! Son!” He is so happy to see his son, he doesn’t give a hoot one way or another about what the son has done.
“But, Chris,” you say, “he zpent all the dad’s money!” Yes. He did. I know that. I’m perfectly aware of that. But that’s not the point here. The point is, regardless, the father not only forgave his son, but you know what he also then did? He called to the highest survant and commanded, “Go kill the fattest cow, bring him something to drink, let’s have a party! For my son was once lost, but now, he’s been found!”
The story doesn’t end here, believe it or not. Now, we have another man, who was the brother of the son who just came home that we’ve previously been discussing. This brother always had worked hard for his dad, always had done exactly what his dad told him, never tried cheating his dad out of land, money, crop, or anything. At the end of the day, you couldn’t have asked for a better son.
When the father sees the brother also coming home, he tells the brother, “You’re brother is home! Your brother is home!” I’m sure I can just see the father jumping in the air and shouting for joy.
However, the brother is filled with resentment, and most likely hurt, and probably even, if I had to guess, anger. Can you blaim him? I mean think about this. Here’s this man who never has gone against his father… never! Yet, then parallel over here, we have the brother who just spent the dad’s whole entire wealth of money for something incredibly foolish. He basically just threw all the money away like it was dirt. The dad is welcoming home the first son, but the second son, all he’s concerned about is telling the brother, “Your brother is home!” No “Hello son. It’s so great to see you as well,” or anything. Wouldn’t you no doubt be hurt? I sure would be!
The brother says to the father, “Dad, you were never pleased by me. You never seemed to care when I did good. Or at least if you did, you never commended me for my efforts,” etc. But dear reader, this is the part I want you to see if you see nothing else in this blog post.
The father turns to this second son and says, “Yeah, but son… your brother is home! We have to throw a party! I love and care about you too, son. I may not have commended you every time you did something good, but you know what son? You had me, and I had you. We never left each other, did we?”
For new christians, I think telling this story is so beautiful, as it completely represents Christ’s love for each of us.
First of all, we don’t deserve Christ’s love. None of us do! But thanks be to our loving Father in Heaven who came and shed his blood on the cross for us to pay the price of our sins, I am forgiven… you are forgiven, the person who is seeking is forgiven! All it takes is for us to be that prodigal son… Come home to the Father. He never demands an answer from us trying to explain why we did, or didn’t do what we did/didn’t do. He only commands a repentant heart… that’s all! If we believe that Christ rose from the dead three days later, shed his blood at Calvary for you and for me unconditionally though undeserved, gave us a reserved ticket to Glory Land to spend eternity with him in Heaven, and finally, if we except him as our Lord and savior, then we’re saved.
Now there’s a second part to this. The person seeking might then do exactly what the second brother did. They may tell you that they have prayed countless times, they may have asked over and over, “God, I don’t see you, where are you?” This is where you tell them the second part of the story about the lost son. You tell them about the second brother, and how the father responded to him.
You may not see God walking along side you because guess what… you’re not walking. God is. God is carrying you the whole time in his loving arms, and is there with you always! Therefore, you’re only gonna see one set of footprints in the sand. What a beautiful beautiful illustration of the gospel!