“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. 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” (Luke 15:17-20).

Helmut Thielicke, preaching about the prodigal Son, says “That he should have wanted to separate himself from his father seems as ridiculous as a person’s fretting over being dependent on air and then holding his breath to assert his freedom. What were the results of the Prodigal cutting himself off from his father to become liberated? Bitter laughter goes up from the pigsty. He had found only chains and deprivation. Both Thielicke and Martin Luther emphasized a familiar Biblical reality: we are not free agents who determine our own fate. We are battlefields on which God and Satan vie for our souls. The great variety of lures that the devil insinuates into our thoughts and experiences have hooks that lead to slavery and the pigsty. In contrast, the Father reaches out for us through Jesus Christ to respond to His love and to live as His children. Actually, the spiritual pigsty of being cut off from the Father may find us physically in pleasant, prosperous surroundings. We may be unaware of the corruption eating away at our souls, and we may think ourselves happy. Yet, if we are cut off from the Father, we are separated from the source of our happiness. When we come to our senses, we see our emptiness and need, and we long for the Father’s house. Jesus is the “very voice of the Father’s heart that overtakes us in the far country and tells us that incredibly joyful news, “You can come home. Come home!” and Thielicke says the ultimate secret of the story of the Prodigal Son is that “There is a homecoming for us all because there is a home.”

Adapted from “The One Year Book of Encouragement”