This last piece on the story of the prodigal son will focus on the character of the father.
Turning to Luke 15 here are the actions taken by the father starting with verse 12:
The father gives his younger son his inheritance.
He meets his son while still a ways down the road and embraces him
He orders for celebration because of the son returning home
He pleads with his eldest son to join the celebration
He reminds the elder son that all that he owns has been available to him.
Just as the younger son represents sinners returning to God and the elder son represents people with a resentful heart, who deal harshly towards others within the church. The Father represents the character and nature of God as he relates to both types. From the Apostle Paul we know that one of the goals of being a christian is to follow the example of Christ. In this, we constantly seek to become more like Christ and less like ourselves. This parable shows how in the midst of our endeavor to become more like Christ, we should look to celebrate the joy of others coming into the Family of God, and we should also seek to bring those with hardened hearts into the celebration of others.
From Henri Nouwen, one of the largest things that I have come to more deeply appreciate is the depth of God\’s character as revealed in Scripture. Specifically the depth of his capacity for love. Through the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus reveals that God\’s love is such that he willingly allows his children to make their own decisions, to have the experiences they desire to have. Some children will choose to run wild and experience all the things the world has to offer, others will stay behind choosing to be the responsible child. Ultimately through this parable we see that there are two goals for those who follow after God, on one hand we should seek to be as loving as the father is, while on the other there is a distinct middle ground between the dutiful nature and decisions that lead to a resentful heart shown by the Elder son, and the reckless pursuit of pleasure and experience shown by the younger son, this middle ground is a choice to pursue whole heartedly all that God has made available to us, and to be responsible in our stewardship of it.
God calls each of us to an individual journey of growth and purpose that glorifies Him and allows us to become more like him. In this journey we have an amazing opportunity to experience the joy of celebrating others and the overflowing love of the father, who meets us where we are and welcomes us home.