Lost and Found.
I recently shared three parables that would be written today, here is one of them;
A father had two sons. One wanted to experience his inheritance immediately and dad being good gave out his money equally between his two boys. The youngest son left the house and partied hard. The dad unfriended him on Facebook and criticised his backslidden ways with the oldest son. The youngest son died of an overdose and the father was so ashamed he never mentioned his name again. That is what happens when you fail to repent and walk away from truth and your spiritual home.
Of course this is not how the parable of the so called ‘prodigal son’ panned out because we have the story with the nice neat finish but I have been thinking about this father and son relationship a lot recently. It could be because I am the father of four sons, not that I have much of an inheritance to give them or leave them, but I have contemplated the story in the light of it going a bit askew in the worldly bit. What would have happened if the son had died while indulging in the world of wild living without repenting or going home? Would it be so broken that the father would say ‘I never knew you’? Would the father be so full of shame that he would disown the son and not even attend the funeral? Or would the son still have equal worth in the eyes of the father than if he would have stayed at home and served him faithfully? Does the son’s worth decrease because he chooses a wrong path in life? Or does the father still proudly pronounce ‘that’s my boy’? Surely at whatever stage the son would have died he would still be the father’s beloved son. I have amazingly not tasted that ‘rebellious’ stage as a father yet with any of my boys. Yes there has been some drunken nights out with added sick pools on our bathroom floor, but I have not tasted what some of you may be going through with your kids. But at the darkest moments even when they shout ‘I hate you, I wish you were not my father/mother’, even at that moment they are still our kids. When they show no interest in God or want to stop doing church stuff, they are still our precious sons and daughters. That is why it hurts so much. If we lost them in these stages of rebellion (and some of you may have been there) or after an hurtful argument they are still our children, our family, in my case my sons, whatever, whenever, however. Is God more unmerciful than us?
Not Any Kind of Ist.
Throwing around the label ‘universalist’ does not help anyone. But no doubt that is a label that will get thrown at people who are pondering the whole area of God restoring all people and all things. It is not a tag I want to wear but I cannot stop mud being thrown. But before some of it sticks let me ask a question. Do you believe that if a baby dies or is aborted that that child goes to heaven? If a young child is tragically taken that that child will be taken to glory? How does this fit with the whole thing of it must be done through personal decision and repentance? I know we say they need to be of age or understanding but what age is that? And if living after that age gives them an opportunity to go to hell why let anyone live past that age giving them a chance to suffer for eternity? This thinking about babies and children makes us all universalistic to some degree. So if we belong to the Father when we are born and are fearfully and wonderfully made by him in the womb but later rebel or are ignorant of Him, like in my parable earlier does He then disown and disassociate Himself of us? Does He write us out of the will and promise of future hope because we are astray, or are we still His children? Are we still fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, although that image may be tainted a bit by our choices? If we die in that state does He de-friend us and not want to share in the moment of our afterlife? Was His death only partially successful and just redeems some things? If a father can stand at a grave after being mistreated by his son all his life and still say ‘that’s my boy’, how much more would our Father in heaven? As the mud flies here are the lyrics of one of Godfrey Birtill’s latest songs;
“I’m not any kind of ‘ist’ I’m a SON!
Knowing who I am and where I belong
Not into any kind of ‘ism’ I’m FREE!
I’m never gonna be a detainee, not me!
How could I ever go astray?
When I know that Papa’s with me
Everyday, Everyday, Everyday!
YEA YEA YEA!
I love to get together with friends
There’s party in the glory that has no end
I don’t ever want to fit in your box
I’ve seen you hide the key
And you keep it locked, keep it locked!
Blest by the Father,
Rested in the Son
Flowing in the Holy Spirit’s freedom!”
The coin and the sheep were the same value whether they were lost or found. The coin never decreased in value while it was lost from the woman. It had the same value as all the one’s that remained in her possession. The same is true of the sheep, if it was worth £200 in the field it was still worth £200 when it was wandering. The son was as valued by the father when he was drinking his life away and sleeping around, as he was if he would have remained at home. His value to the father never decreased. He was eating pig swill, he was valued, he wasted all the inheritance, he was valued, he slept around, he was valued. He was still the father’s son. Whether he went home or not he was the father’s son. Whether he said sorry or not he was still the father’s son. You reading this He values you the same. You are the Father’s son or daughter. Messed up or messing up, you are His child. Ashamed of stuff you have done, you are still His child and He is not ashamed of you. You are valuable to Him, as valuable as a son who has served Him faithfully every day. You do not earn the son-ship, you are His son. Universalism? I do not give a shig what it is, but I see value in all people. I am more concerned at the belief that seems to love the idea of people going to hell. Some seem to rub their hands at that thought and long for God to wipe a few people out. It breaks my heart to think of the possibility of any being lost. And I think it would break the Father’s heart too much as well. He values people too much for that. And so should we.