“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
Hopefully we have all heard the truth many times: “God loves you.” But what does that really mean? Jesus tells a story in Luke 15 to explain God’s emotions for sinful human beings.
A son leaves home demanding that he get his share of the inheritance. He spends it all quickly, carelessly, and sinfully, and when he runs out of money he works for a farmer, but is paid so little that he longs for the food the pigs are eating. At this point he decides that he will go home, admit his sins, acknowledge that he is no longer a part of the family, and ask to become a hired man.
The hired man in that culture worked for a slave’s wages but didn’t stay in the house. The prodigal’s feeling was that his father might be willing to provide for him, but that he would not want to be close to him, or to even have him around.
Do you ever think that’s how God feels about you? He may meet your needs because He is good. He may forgive your sins because Jesus died for them and legally He has to. But the bottom line is that He doesn’t really like you, or desire you because of the person you’ve been. I think a lot of us can feel this way in our hearts even though our minds may be able to give all the right answers. Perhaps we don’t really know God’s heart for us.
As the prodigal starts home, he may have been rehearsing to himself all of his sins and wondering what kind of a reception he would receive. Would it be avoidance; the lights are all shut off, the door is locked and no one answers no matter how many times he knocks? Or would it be guilt; “Do you have any idea what you have put your mother and I through…” with a rehashing of all his sins after all their generosity! Or would it be cold business? “Here is the amount you took when you left. Yes, you can have a job, but you will pay back everything that you owe.”
Jesus explained how God really feels when any of us sincerely repent and ask His forgiveness: “He was filled with compassion, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.” No guilt trip, no avoidance, no coldness. God rejoices over you and I and His heart is intimacy, not performance.