Embracing the shame

“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.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven

and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe

and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his

feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and

celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;

he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:21-24 NIV

More about God. The running father SEES his boy; we can imagine him waiting in anticipation, day in and day out, for his son to return home. He recognized him too. Trudging across the fields with his head down, dirty and emaciated, no conquering hero returning home to praise and adulation here. Instead, a boy returns in humiliation and defeat. A not uncommon story for life is hard and few succeed on their first run at life.

And what does he receive? A welcome that is fit for a king. He receives the best robe, a ring and sandals for his feet. A fat calf. A feast. A celebration for a son who was lost but is now found. The father interrupts the boy in mid-confession. He will hear nothing of his negotiations and deals for reentry into the family. The father is having none of it. The boy is welcomed home because the running father loves him. End of story.

We do not know if the son ever understands the depth of the father’s love - a love that is itself willing to be shamed (fathers do NOT run and certainly do not expose their knees by lifting their robes to run) as the community sees him welcome the son who squandered his inheritance, lived in a distant land and chose a disreputable lifestyle. It may take this son awhile to process a robe and ring and fattened calf. Maybe he ends up grateful; maybe not. But the point of this story is NOT the son; it is the father.When Scott was in seminary he took a class from a guy who wrote a commentary on Luke. He’s got quite the reputation for scholarly research and understanding this gospel. He teaches his pupils that parables are primarily understood as short stories that teach one small thing about God. And so it is with some measure of confidence that I implore us to stop making this parable all about us (seeing ourselves as one son or the other) and instead, turn our gaze to the running father. Consider how knowing that this is who God is might change how we relate to him.