Guest post: We Are the Prodigal Son

Today's guest post comes from our friends at goTandem, your partner for Biblical engagement.

by Dr. Arnie Cole, goTandem

There’s a festering splinter inside each of us that has got to go. For me, I don’t notice it as much when I stay busy. It’s when I sit still for a moment and start to think. That’s when I feel it. That’s when it begins to ache.

Suddenly, I find myself confronted with an ugly reality: So much of my day is spent trying to make life work without God in the center. Yet I still expect Him to cooperate with me—relating to me on my terms, revolving around my plans, solving problems so I can live the way I want to live.

Author Steven James said it best: “We ignore our failures and downplay our moral meltdowns. We fill our lives with frantic distractions so we can avoid noticing the splinter of guilt embedded so deeply in our souls.” (Steven James, Story: Recapture the Mystery, Grand Rapids: Revell, © 2006, 20.)

My preoccupation with me—and not with God—is what put that splinter inside. It’s what went wrong in the garden. Adam and Eve rejected that one, single command that God had given them, and all of human history changed. They became convinced that being in charge of their own soul was best. The only problem with that way of thinking is that we humans tend to make bad choices. Part of the reason we make bad choices is that we don’t see the entire picture, the complete story. But another reason is that we are simply selfish. Since the fall, self-centeredness—not God-centeredness—has become the defining characteristic of our lives.

“Governing the cosmos on God’s behalf was and is not enough for humanity,” writes Bible expert Scot McKnight. “Humans ache to rule the cosmos. They want to be God. The ache to be God and act as if we are God are what sin is all about.”

Every human soul is a battleground where a war between good and evil is being fought every second of every day: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). But there’s hope. Read this passage from Luke 15:20-24 (The Message) and put yourself in the shoes of the prodigal son. Better yet, imagine that it’s Christ who is preparing a great feast just for you …

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: “Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.” But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, “Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found! And they began to have a wonderful time.”

We are the prodigal son.

We are Adam and Eve.

We are not alone.

God lavished the first humans with everything they needed, every advantage to succeed. He gave them the tools and the answers to withstand temptation—to remove that splinter—and to resist the grip of sin. He’s still doing that today.

How about you? Are you numb to your own splinter, too busy with “frantic distractions” to notice it? Or is that ache inside compelling to make some changes? What steps are you taking?

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