“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
In one of my earliest memories, I remember being a frightened little boy sitting in a police car. With the two-way radio crackling and the roof-light flashing, we drew up to police headquarters near a sprawling park in Queens, New York City. I had wandered from my family’s picnic on one of the park’s long paths through the woods. Mom and Dad had searched for me frantically, imagining the dangers to their child in a city of 8 million strangers. My heart leaped: there they were! Hugs and kisses and endearing words followed, and effusive thanks to the officer, and immense relief.
Jesus told a story about a wandering, lost son. The heart-wrenching agony of the father in that story would have been greater even than my parents endured when I was lost as a child. The son in Jesus’ story was full-grown, and by asking for his share of the inheritance, he was telling his dad that he wished he were dead. The father could have gotten angry and disowned the son, but instead, with compassion like that of God the Father, he kept the door open and waited for his son to return to his senses.
Could there be anything more powerful than God’s love for us? The gospel is not just some philosophical exercise but a heart-wrenching, real-life drama that brings us to tears of gratitude. It moves us to turn back and follow Jesus, to live as our loving Father calls us to.