Sometimes in discussing the Bible, the question arises, “Which Biblical character are you most like?” Or, perhaps, “which character would you most like to resemble?” There are, of course, many candidates. Many people say, Peter, because he spoke and acted before thinking it over thoroughly, just like me. He was very impulsive yet very protective of Jesus. Others say, “Paul because of his great zeal, deep learning and willingness to die for Christ,” even if he was impatient at times. Many other people expressed traits and attitudes much like ours—Lydia, Abraham, David, Esther, Moses, Ruth, etc, etc. Chances are we are all really a composite of many of these characters.
May I suggest, however, that the one character that we all resemble is the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable (Lk 15: 11-13). Like him, we all have sinned against the Father and heaven (v18) (Rom 3: 23). At some time we have all rebelled against God’s authority and chosen to go our own stubborn way. In Jesus’ parable the Father did not go searching for and begging the son to return home, but he was overjoyed when he did come home. In fact, the Father ran to him filled with compassion, threw his arms around him and kissed him (v 20). He was quick to rejoice and accept him back. I believe Jesus had the same attitude towards the 7 churches in Revelation 3: 20 (Isa 42: 1-4). He stood at the door and knocked, giving anyone who would, a chance to repent and return to their first love (Rev 2: 4-5). Similar to the parable, “there will be rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15: 10) “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, O sinner, come home.”
There is actually another lesson for the church today at the end of this parable. If we didn’t see ourselves or identify with the younger son, we may indeed sin like the older brother (v 25-32). His anger and resentment boiled over at the forgiveness of his brother because he felt his loyalty and service had been undervalued by the Father. God promises us that this won’t be the case—“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6: 10) Some of the definitions of Prodigal are: wasteful, wayward, reckless and willful. The younger son HAD certainly been all of these, but had repented. The older son had either never heard or chose to overlook God’s statement, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” (Hos 6:6) Some have literally left their church home for a myriad of reasons, others stay but let duty and resentment replace forgiveness and joy. To both God says, “O sinner, come home.”