This past Sunday–as I read the story of the Prodigal Son–I was nearly moved to tears as I reflected on the account of the Father. This parable is foundational to our faith as it is a window into the heart of our Lord. There are 2 key movements of the Father in this story. Like so many wonderful paradoxes of our faith, the Father moves in the same and opposite direction. The default direction is towards. The Father moves towards both sons. And, because of the division between the brothers, it means that the Father moves in the opposite direction as well.
“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.” Luke 15:20
The father runs towards the wayward son.
In the last scene, the scripture is clear that the Father moves towards again. The older son stands on the outside of the celebration. The Father comes out to meet him. He comes towards. Luke 15:28
Interesting, isn’t it, that moving towards is God’s act of compassion to the wayward Son. And yet it is this movement that becomes the source of frustration for the diligent Son. The one son repented, turned, confessed, and was met by his Father. The other didn’t repent, didn’t turn, didn’t confess, didn’t even recognize his error–his sin–and the Father still came to him.
Ours is a God who moves towards us. It is His nature. Yet His propensity to move towards His people may just leave us at odds with one another. How is it that God’s grace is such a gift when expressed to us and yet we turn it into a thorn when others are invited to the party?
It is in these moments when we do well to learn from our Father in heaven. When there is a gulf of distance between your brothers and sisters the best we can do is take a step towards reconciliation.
The phrase “to bury the hatchet” has its origin in the peace making ritual of the Native Americans. More than any peace accord or written agreement of reconciliation, peace was forged between rival tribes through the ceremony of hatchet burying. The chiefs would come together–towards each other–and they would each bury their weapon of war as a symbolic act. The point is this. A hatchet burying ceremony doesn’t work apart from one another. You can’t do it alone. Reconciliation and peacemaking involves a movement towards the one who sinned against you.
Reflect for a moment on the significance of our Father in heaven who moves toward you. When have you experienced His movement in your life? And, invest some time thinking about someone who you stand at odds against. What is something you can do this week to take one step towards this person? And do it.
photo credit: A woodworker’s tool via photopin (license)
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