The presentationJesus gives of the father is that he makes no conditions when the prodigal returns, neither does he bring home to him any remembrance of the far country — the elder brother does that. It is the revelation of the unfathomable, unalterable, amazing love of God. We would feel much happier in our backslidden condition if only we knew it had altered God towards us, but we know that immediately we do come back back we will find Him the same, and this is one of the things that keeps men from coming back. If God would only be angry and demand an apology, it would be a gratification to our pride. When we have done wrong we like to be lashed for it. God never lashes.
- Oswald Chambers
The Greek language may have four words that express different types of love, but Hollywood portrays love as having one meaning: romance. Any “feel good” romantic comedy – such as You’ve Got Mail, Sabrina,Only You, or Notting Hill – focuses on the saga of two unlikely people falling in love with each other. But, these films always end the moment the couple finally gets together, marries, and lives happily ever after. In contrast, a lively, dynamic marriage is never explored in film; perhaps the underlying assumption is that now that the couple is together, the excitement is over. In fact, marriage tends to be depicted on screen only when the relationship is failing or when it serves as a back story to something more important. The problem comes when we start to believe what we watch in the movies and hear in Top 40 love songs – that “falling in love” is what fulfills us. Then, when we don’t feel the magic or experience the romance in our everyday life, we can become disillusioned and give up on our marriage, thinking there’s something wrong with it or the person we are committed to.
Within this romance–crazed culture, U2’s “A Man and a Woman” [Lyrics] [iTunes] offers a much different take. Instead of writing Yet Another Love Song for his wife Ali, Bono writes a far deeper, more probing, and ultimately redemptive tune. The result is a musical peek into what true married love is all about.
How do you view God? Do you see Him as a stern taskmaster waiting to pounce on us lowly humans the moment we make a mistake? Studies show that our perception of our heavenly Father tends to mirror the way we look at our earthly father. So, if we had a harsh, overly strict dad, we tend to think of God behaving the same way towards us. In stark contrast, Jesus provides a far different perspective for us in the story of the Prodigal Son, a parable with profound insight as to the nature of God’s love for His children.
We read in Luke 15:20: “…And while [the younger son] was still at a great distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him.” In picking apart this verse, I see three insights we can glean to find out more about God’s love.
Brennan Manning on the the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:
I don’t think anyone reading this would have approved of throwing rocks at the poor woman in adultery, but we would have made darn sure she presented a detailed act of contrition and was firm in her purpose of amendment. Because if we let her off without saying she was sorry, wouldn’t she back into adultery before sunset?…No, the love of God isn’t dignified at all, and apparently that’s the way He expects our love to be. Not only does He require that we accept His inexplicable, embarrassing kind of love, but once we’ve accepted it, He expects us to behave the same way as others.
The older I get, the more I realize and experience the sobering reality of Christians being critical to other believers and assuming the worst about them. I came across some quotes from Oswald Chambers, author of the classic My Utmost For His Highest, tonight that should convict us and pierce us to the heart:
It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong.
The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual, there is nothing of the likeness of Jesus Christ about him. A critical [spirit] is a contradiction to all our Lord’s teaching. Jesus says of criticism, ‘Apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.’ ‘Why does thou judge thy brother?’”
Jesus says regarding judging, ‘Dont! Be uncritical in your temper, because in the spiritual domain you can accomplish nothing by criticism.’ One of the severest lessons to learn is to leave the cases we don’t understand to God.
I want a change of the heart. Who is with me?
I am convinced there is a “Now gene” swimming inside every human body. A two-year child reaching out for a toy at the counter never sees next week as an option. A couple madly in love yearns to be together tonight, not tomorrow. Much of our postmodern economy, in fact, is built on the importance of Now: credit cards, downloadable music, video-on-demand, lottery tickets, to name but a few examples. Pundits call us the “instant society” for obvious reasons. If we have a “Now gene” that influences us towards instant gratification, I can easily guess its source of origin – our humanness.
On the one hand, you can make a case that this desire for the immediate isn’t altogether bad; perhaps it is the natural response that any person, bound by time and space, will inevitably have. On the other hand, Satan recognizes “Get It Now” as one of his most effective weapons, because it allows us to receive what we most desire without requiring any inward change on our part to get it.
The prophet Isaiah tells us in Is. 53:5 to that by Christ’s wounds, we are healed. Yet, what about our wounds and our pains — even self-inflicted ones? Are the mistakes, pains, and regrets of our past just something we just have to live with, even if he forgives us of them? Or might God somehow use our innocent suffering as well as our sinful stains and failures in a way reminiscent of Isaiah’s words?
In one of my all-time favorite songs “For Miles”, Thrice describes an amazing aspect of God’s grace and redemption — how God can actually use our scars to heal others:
I know one day, all our scars will disappear, like the stars at dawn
And all of our pain, will fade away when morning comes
And on that day when we look backwards we will see, that everything is changed
And all of our trials, will be as milestones on the way
And as long as we live, every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart
And there’s no greater love, than the one shed his blood for his friends
- Thrice, “For Miles”