Focus Text: Luke 15.21-24

“And the [prodigal] son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15.21-24).

In the quoted scripture, there is a great contrast between the statement by the son and the response of the father. Read the text again and see if you can spot it. That contrast is what today’s devotional is about; that contrast is what this entire series on How God Treats Sinners is about!

Here is the contrast: The son said, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The father said, “…[T]his my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” There is more in this contrast than mere words; the essence of this contrast is the difference between the essence of God and the essence of man. Without such an example, man cannot even think such lofty thoughts; they are entirely outside the realm of human possibilities! Man thinks, “Even though I am genuinely sorry and ask in absolute humility, there must be a penalty exacted for my wrongs! I know I cannot be called a son anymore, but just to live as a servant is all I ask!”

This contrast reveals the heart of God and how He treats some sinners; it also reveals the way He is willing to treat all other sinners (depending upon their attitude towards their sins). The parable speaks of a sinner [the son] who was penitent and therefore, the application is obvious to that class (the penitent) of sinners. But, it also demonstrates that it is not sin alone that separates man from God; it is sin plus man’s attitude toward his sins that leads to separation. The clear implication is that God is willing to forgive all who come to Him with the same penitent attitude of subjection that the prodigal son displayed.

The contrast also reveals man’s inability to think and act on the plane equivalent to God. The truth is we are not even able to forgive ourselves apart from the forgiveness that God demonstrates to us! David’s sin was ever before him (Psalm 51.3). Paul saw himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1.15). Even with God’s help, we cannot forget; we continue to go through life with some vestige of our former lives tagging along behind us and rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. Not only are we incapable of forgiving ourselves apart from Jesus Christ, we are incapable of forgiving others as we ought to do. Our Lord and Savior demonstrated the truly Divine attribute of forgiveness coupled with its Divine twin, unconditional love! Absolute forgiveness demands unconditional love! God can treat penitent sinners the way He does because He loves unconditionally!

Perhaps you are beginning to get God’s message that is stamped on every page of scripture; He wants us to know that He is willing to forgive and that He absolutely takes not pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (see Ezekiel 33.11). Those who portray God in a contrary light simply do not know the God of the Bible!

Questions:

1. Before going back home, what role in the household did the son say he was willing to accept?

2. How much difference was there between the thinking of the son about forgiveness and the thinking of the father? What has that to do with our thoughts about forgiveness and God’s ways?

3. What evidence did the father give that he forgave his son and that he loved unconditionally?

4. Is there such a thing as perfect love? Who demonstrates it? Should we imitate it? Why? How?