Jesus told a parable traditionally called "The Prodigal Son", and most believe the son is the focus of the story. It should be called "The Story of the Incredible Father!" because the FATHER's "outrageous love" is actually the unifying theme.
If someone asked you, when did the father love the youngest son the most, you might be tempted to say it is the moment where the father meets the son on the road. On further reflection, however, you could suggest it is when the father gives him his inheritance and lets him go. Only THEN does it become clear: THEIR IS NO POINT IN THE STORY WHERE THE FATHER LOVES HIS SON MORE THAN AT ANY OTHER POINT! He loved him completely through the process. THAT is the only constant in the story.
The events in this story cannot be accounted for by the varying love of the father - only the varying PERCEPTION of it by the son. Though he was not less-loved at any point in the story, through most of it he lives as if he was.
When he took the money from his father and stormed off the farm, he lived less-loved.
When he spent this money in a foreign land, wasting it on this own pleasures and thinking he'd finally fooled his father, he lived less-loved.
Even when he started for home, practicing his pleas of repentance, willing to be a slave to his father, he lived less-loved.
But finally, when he's home in the robe, the sandals, and the ring, sitting at his father's table, sinking his teeth into the fillet Mignon, it finally sinks in. HE IS LOVED! But he ALWAYS WAS! It's just that now he can stop living as if he wasn't.
Most of our lives are spent living less-loved.
When we worry that God will ask us for some horrible sacrifice, we live less-loved.
When we indulge ourselves in sin, we live less-loved.
When we give into anxiety in the crush of our circumstances, we live less-loved.
When we try to earn God's favor by our own efforts, we live less-loved.
Even when we get caught up in religious obligations to make ourselves acceptable to Him, we live less-loved.
I have lived less-loved all of my life. I can list ALL of the above as mine. I want to "live loved"!
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