Most of you could probably tell someone the parable of the prodigal son by heart.
Two sons, very different. One sets off for the distant land and follows the desires of his flesh. It goes badly. The other son never sets off, but is just as lost in bitterness and judgment.
We have been these sons. We each have had our distant country. This distant country may have looked obviously steeped in sin, or maybe it was the less obvious distance we have put between ourselves and those who love us. We may have made ourselves inaccessible to those who need us or who know the truth of the darker places in our lives. This too is a distant country of inauthenticity and dishonesty. Often we travel far from God because other things look so much more interesting- even things like church and ministry and theological study.
Other times we stay home with the Father, but lack any real relationship. We go about our work (even church work) but our actual relationship with God comes in a distant second, third or fourth to all that needs to be done. We even railroad through, closing our ears to God’s words of grace, in favor of legalism and comfortable judgment within our hearts.
But still, we are sons. God has declared it. We are his children. And oh “the great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” It is a declarative statement. It can not be taken from us. The God of the Universe calls us His children, even when we are in a distant country, even when we are traveling on the road home, even when we are the prodigal son’s older brother, even when we are embracing the Father in all of His lavishness. The Father’s love is not dependent on the children’s behavior. This pours out of us into our marriage and home. We lavish this same grace and love onto our spouse and children. We lavish this same grace and love on those entrusted to us in our congregations and ministries.
We are sons and that fills us for our roles as fathers, as mothers, as husbands, as wives, as teachers, as neighbors, in every role, in every moment. We are sons- that is what we are!