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Orphans: Holding and being Held

09/15/2012 2 comments

“But when he came to himself…, he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk. 15:17-20)

The embrace of the father in this parable is one of the major points of the story. We often focus on the rebellion of the prodigal and his return, or the elder brother’s attempt to earn favor. But Jesus’ purpose in telling the story was to draw attention to his Father’s willingness to embrace those who have gone astray.

In the parable, both the elder brother and the prodigal thought like orphans. The elder brother thought he had to work to earn the right to enjoy his father’s house (which was also his house). He did not feel like he belonged as a part of the family. He was behaving like a servant, not like a son, even though the whole estate was his. His inheritance was not available to him because of his orphan thinking. Inheritance is for sons, not orphans.

The prodigal also thought like an orphan. He felt like he had to go outside his father’s house to enjoy life. Like the elder brother, he did not feel like he belonged to his father. He wanted to break free from what he perceived to be a restricting environment. But the only way he could break away was to take his inheritance and use it for his own self-centered desires. Like Adam and Eve, he believed the lie that the father did not have his best interest in mind.

When the prodigal “came to himself” (v. 17), he realized he was a son of a good father. He had been alienated from his father, which was also alienation from himself. He had to return to himself (as a son) before he could return to his father. He had ceased to feel like a son, but he had not ceased to be a son.

On his return, his father held him in his arms without requiring any penance. That embrace had been available before the prodigal left home. But the prodigal, thinking like an orphan, was not able to receive that embrace. The father wanted to hold his son, but the son would not be held. His orphan thinking was keeping him from intimacy with his father.

But the elder brother was also refusing to receive the embrace, even though it was for different reasons. He wanted the approval of his friends. He was trying to earn the right to use the father’s house to entertain his friends. He was not interested in his father’s presence. His orphan thinking was also keeping him from intimacy with his father.

True intimacy with God is about holding and being held; God holds and we allow ourselves to be held. If one is trying to hold but the other is resisting, there can be no intimacy. Abba Father holds all of us in his heart at all times and in all circumstances. Lack of intimacy is never a problem on God’s side. His steadfast love endures forever. If you feel a lack of intimacy with God, stop trying so hard to win his favor and simply spend more time allowing him to hold you.

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If you are interested in a deeper study of the parable of the prodigal, go to https://www.createspace.com/3509902 an check out my “Invitation to Intimacy,” which is a meditation on Luke chapter 17.

Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries
http://onword.org